Line Numbering?

Once in a long while I see a template contract that uses Word’s line-numbering feature to include line numbering in the left margin of each page.

The idea, obviously, it to allow anyone involved in drafting or negotiating a contract based on the template to pinpoint language at issue—Let’s strike the word “material” on page 46, line 12.

That’s a laudable aim, but I’m inclined to think that using line numbering is overkill. If, as I recommend, you use sections, subsections, and tabulated enumerated clauses to break text up into blocks that are no more than about 15 lines long, citing a given block of text by its enumeration narrows things down sufficiently that the extra precision afforded by a line number would be of negligible value. And line numbering clutters up a page.

If you feel differently, I’m sure you’ll let me know.

About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.

5 thoughts on “Line Numbering?”

  1. It’s probably a result of litigators taking a crack at drafting. They forget to turn off the automatic line numbering when they switch from drafting pleadings to drafting contracts.

  2. I do a lot of legislative work and it’s extremely efficient to use page and line numbers in marking up a draft.

  3. OK. I agree with you 100% – Section headings SHOULD, in theory, be enough. I can’t tell you how many times, however, I’ve had the experience of actually spending 5+ minutes trying to get everyone on the phone to look at the same language at the same time.

    So while I would almost never really want to use line numbering, it can be a valuable tool if: 1. You’ve thought of it ahead of time and have turned it on before sending out the document to your peers. 2. You use it sparingly and remember to turn it back off before printing.

    Just my $0.02 worth.

  4. Patent attorneys used to be required to line number their patent applications. This was handy for specifically pointing out things in the document to patent offices (now we paragraph number). Great for long complicated patent documents. A bit of overkill for contracts where there are headings, sections, subsections, etc. Jeff’s comment is a good one for drafting discussions.

  5. Unfortunately, Word sometimes prints the same document differently on different computers, and that can affect the line numbering. I was in a telephone conference call last week when we were working off a draft document that had line numbering, and some of us had the text in question on line 546 and others had it on line 548. If the document had been printed to .pdf and the .pdf circulated, the line numbering would probably have been identical.


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