What Does It Mean to Be a “Truly Knowledgeable Drafter”?

Remember ejusdem generis? It’s the principle of interpretation that holds that if general words follow an enumeration of two or more things, they apply only to persons or things of the same general kind or class.

Joe Kimble’s excellent article on ejusdem generis (here) reminded me of the following assertion in Scalia and Garner’s Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts:

The truly knowledgeable interpreter (and drafter) knows the ejusdem generis canon; it has become part of the accepted terminology of legal documents. Any lawyer or legislative drafter who writes two or more specifics followed by a general residual term without the intention that the residual term be limited may be guilty of malpractice.

All that matters for purposes of this post is that this extract got me wondering how you determine whether someone is a “truly knowledgeable drafter,” as regards their ability to say clearly and concisely whatever needs to be said.

I propose that the only way to measure competence is against a set of guidelines. Traditional contract drafting doesn’t offer a set of guidelines; it offers chaos.

[Update 1 December 2016: Hey, I remembered this post from 2014, What It Takes to Be a Great Contract Drafter.]

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.