The English and “Notify”

Behold this random EDGAR fragment:

The Participants shall procure that their representatives shall comply with all safety procedures notified to the Participants by the Operator which are implemented from time to time by the Operator whilst at the relevant location of Joint Operations.

Yes, of course it’s crappy. But it’s English crappy! The “whilst” is a giveaway. But that’s not what we’re here for. Instead, what caught my eye is “all safety procedures notified to the Participants”.

That’s not how we use notify in Murica. We’d say all safety procedures the Operator notifies the Participants of.

The Oxford English Dictionary has in its definition of notify a 1781 example that expresses this difference:

J. Witherspoon Druid No. v, in J. Pickering New Amer. Acad. Arts & Sci. (1815) III. ii. 499   In [British] English we do not notify the person of the thing, but notify the thing to the person.

So, English readers, is that always the case? Or do you now see in contracts a mix of both usages?

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.

9 thoughts on “The English and “Notify””

  1. I have no examples immediately to hand, but the OED recognises both prepositions. I would make the choice according to whether the emphasis of the clause was on what is being notified, or who, and in any event would strive to ensure that the preposition did not appear at the end of the sentence!

    • There’s no basis for switching from one usage to the other depending on context: it’s simply a matter of convention.

      And the no-preposition-at-the-end-of-the-sentence business has been thoroughly debunked.

      • Ken:

        It’s debunked as a rule, but clarity in writing has not. And constructions like “all safety procedures the Operator notifies the Participants of” requires two readings to comprehend. In this case not putting the preposition at the end would have aided reading: “all safety procedures of which the Operator notifies the Participants.” It is a little stilted and archaic, but only requires one read.


  2. Both, I think. Just to pick some examples from a recent draft agreement I have to hand:
    “the Buyer will notify the Seller in writing of the Amount”
    “or such other person or address as the Seller may notify to the Buyer from time to time”
    *subject to the Relevant Claim being notified to the Seller within the time period specified”

  3. I think the right preposition depends on the sense of ‘notify’ the drafter intends.

    The first possible sense is ‘give notice to’. In that sense, the object of ‘notify’ is a person. It takes another phrase, like ‘of the defect’ to say what the person is alerted to: ‘The Buyer shall notify the Vendor of the defect’.

    The second possible sense of ‘notify’ is ‘announce’ or ‘declare’. In that sense, the object of ‘notify’ is the thing declared, like ‘the defect’. It takes an additional phrase, like ‘to the vendor’ to identify the target of the announcement: ‘The Buyer shall notify the defect to the Vendor’.

    I’m not sure that the second sense of ‘notify’ is used in the U.S. (much? any more?). If it isn’t, that would explain the absence of ‘notify to (person)’ formulations in U.S. contracts. –Wright

  4. I think I’m more concerned about ‘procuring their representatives’ (ish). Does that mean I have to host them and feed them?


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