Using “Want” in Recitals

One function of recitals is to state, simply and succinctly, the purpose of the transaction. Different verbs can be used to accomplish that.

When what follows is another verb, one traditional choice is desire to (and no, I don’t endorse use of WHEREAS in the following examples):

WHEREAS, the Stockholders desire to set forth their agreement as to certain matters relating to the Company and their respective holdings of the Common Stock of the Company.

Here’s a suboptimal variant of desire to, using the old-fogey adjective desirous:

WHEREAS , the Assignors having made the above invention and filed application for Letters Patent of the United States thereon, and the Assignee is desirous of acquiring the same.

The other traditional option is wish to:

WHEREAS, the Creditors wish to specify their relative rights and priorities with respect to the KeyBank Collateral, the Consignment Inventory and the Goodman Collateral … .

Used less often than those two is a third alternative, want to:

WHEREAS , Titan wants to sell Deere the Products that Titan manufactures.

How do the three alternatives compare? Desire to has an odd steaminess to it. Wish to is fine, but perhaps a little genteel, a little Victorian—it doesn’t occur much in everyday English. Want to is the most colloquial option.

So I think that want to gets my vote.

What if what follows is noun-plus-verb? Here are five alternatives:

The Company desires that the Executive serve the Company as its chief executive officer.

It is the desire of the Company that the Executive serve the Company as its chief executive officer

The Company wishes for the Executive to serve the Company as its chief executive officer.

It is the wish of the Company that the Executive serve the Company as its chief executive officer

The Company wants the Executive to serve the Company as its chief executive officer.

Here too, I think want represents the simplest choice.

Incidentally, you could use wants and the alternatives in the body of the contract. But generally it’s a bad idea to key provisions to a party’s state of mind, as that could get you into the business of reading minds. For example, I’d revise the following example as shown:

At the written request of the Landlord, the Contractor shall furnish the Landlord with a copy of any one or more insurance policies that the Landlord wants to renew [read: that the Landlord specifies].

Thanks to Martin and Mike for posting comments alerting me to this final point. It’s something that I’ll be exploring further.

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.