Ruminating on the Word “Excellence”

What does the word excellence have to do with contract drafting? Bear with me.

I’m not fond of the word excellence. It’s not a word you hear much in everyday English. Instead, we use adjectives (excellent, not to mention great, outstanding, and others) or adverbs (excellently, not to mention amazingly, splendidly, and others). But excellence is an abstract noun—you can’t see, hear, smell, touch, or taste excellence—so it has a pompous bureaucratic feel that makes it a favorite of marketing departments. Schools, companies, and other organizations trot out slogans featuring excellence. I don’t believe any of them. (The word success has the same sort of problem.)

So the word excellence is symptomatic of posturing. That’s what many organizations do. They don’t actually care about making stuff great. Instead, what they’re interested in is appearing committed to being great; that’s easier. That approach is consistent with a broader civic disorder, the one that disdains reality in favor of what we want to believe is real.

That’s why some companies with the resources to do the job properly appear not to care about how clear and concise their contracts actually are. They think their contracts are clear and concise, and they don’t respond positively to anything that intrudes on that reverie.

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.