Using “o’clock” When Stating a Time of Day

Here’s an amusingly pointless usage: including o’clock when you state a time of day in a contract, as in before 4:00 o’clock p.m. on the Borrowing Date. Adding o’clock accomplishes nothing.

It occurs in 109 “material contracts” filed on the SEC’s EDGAR system in the past year—not often enough to say that it’s a standard usage, but often enough to take time out to laugh at it.

To make it even sillier, use it when stating a time that isn’t on the hour: 11:59 o’clock p.m. Even in speech where o’clock has a place, you use it only when the minute hand point to twelve.

You could also go for a pointless literary look by using words rather than digits for the hour: eleven o’clock a.m.

And how about this doozy, which includes the words-and-digits thing: on or before Two O’clock (2:00) p.m. Eastern Time (“ET”). Thank you, Empire Sports Entertainment Holdings Co.!

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.