So, how long have I been doing this? About fourteen years?

Well then, how come it has taken me this long to write about wherefore? Excuse me, WHEREFORE.

There’s archaic, then there’s bizarro archaic. WHEREFORE falls into the latter category.

One meaning of wherefore is “why,” as in “Wherefore art thou Romeo?” Another meaning is “as a result of which,” “therefore.” I’ve seen it used in the lead-in to convey that meaning. Here’s one example (it and the others are from that great boneyard, the SEC’s EDGAR system):

Now, WHEREFORE, the Department and Respondent agree as follows:

And here’s another:

WHEREFORE, this Amended and Restated Agreement of Limited Partnership has been duly executed by the General Partner and the Limited Partners as of the date first above written.

The standard-issue archaism, NOW, THEREFORE, is bad enough—it seems twisted to go for something even more obscure. Instead, retreat to rationality and use instead The parties therefore agree as follows.

You also see WHEREFORE used in recitals instead of the archaic WHEREAS:

WHEREFORE, Executive is currently the Executive Vice President, Commercial Operations of Heska.

WHEREFORE, Executive and Heska now wish to enter into this Agreement regarding the terms of Executive’s employment, which shall become effective upon execution.

NOW, THEREFORE, in consideration of the foregoing and of the mutual promises, covenants, and agreements contained herein, the legal sufficiency of which is acknowledged by the Parties, and intending to be legally bound, the Parties agree as follows:

But in this context, “as a result of which” is not the meaning you’re looking to convey. This is alarmingly weird.

You also see it in the concluding clause, instead of IN WITNESS WHEREOF, which is itself a sad joke:

IN WITNESS WHEREFORE, the Parties have signed this Agreement on the date first written above.

This is so bizarre that I don’t know what to say.

Bottom line: If you’re tempted to use WHEREFORE in a contract, or if you’re inclined to use it anywhere other than on stage in Elizabethan garb, seek help immediately.

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.

7 thoughts on ““Wherefore””

  1. “Wherefore seeing we also
    are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside
    every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run
    with patience the race that is set before us.”

    We should also abandon “in witness whereof”. Our book, Execution of Documents (Law Society Publishing, 2nd edition), while offering both traditional and modern testimonium clauses, uses “in witness of which” for the traditional version.

    • *does spit take* Hold on a sec! *30 seconds of silence* OK, I’ve revised to post to make sure no one is under the impression that I think “IN WITNESS WHEREOF” is anything other than massively lame.

      • Ken, in drafting contracts for my clients, I have made efforts to replace such phraseology with more straight forward language. Clients are resistant to such changes. According to them, they have seen other contracts and mines is different, and supposedly this deviation does not sit well with them. I have made my best efforts to educate them to the contrary. Success has been somewhere around 50%. Any thoughts or suggestions on how I should approach such comments?

        • All you can do is tell them that the “traditional” way doesn’t make sense. Ask them how much of the traditional language they themselves understand. Tell them that you don’t have to follow the herd: you can do what makes sense for you.

  2. Over the top alert!

    Language evolves, but that doesn’t mean that Shakespeare and the KJV are ludicrous trash because they wouldn’t be written that way today.

    All the “where-” and “there-” words served and in some cases still serve admirably to express a specific meaning compactly.

    “Whither” and “thither,” for example, pinpoint a meaning not captured so well by “where” and “there.” If we banish the former, let us at least admit that the language loses a little thereby, in that we must now use three words to do the work of one: “to what place” and “to that place.”

    Surely no principle more lofty than common usage can banish “wherefore” while welcoming “therefore.”

    –Wright Burke

  3. The quality of writing is apparently so bad in America, that 15 years ago if not more my law school (University of Florida) introduced a mandatory Legal Drafting class as a 2L course. In the first few weeks we were tortured with grammar exercises and why it’s rarely a good idea to use a passive voice in contracts and pleadings. We were taught to use a plain language and that “may”, “will” and present tense all have their specific applications. I would never pass the class had I used these outdated phrases in anything I submitted. The downside to overthinking your draft is that I can’t easily let it go, years after graduation, whenever I need to write a legal document. I group and regroup issues, move my recitals and obligations around, wonder who’s the benefiting party, etc and it’s never quite finished in my mind.

  4. Mr. Adams (Ken),

    I saw AWrightBurkeMPhil reply below and this dialogue is as alive and well today as it was 3 years ago when he sent his reply. Since your last post on this was July of 2017 I’m posting my 2 cents.
    I would have to ask Mr. AWRIGHTBURKEMPHIL and you respectfully if much the language such as WHEREFORE, IN SO MUCH AS, IN WITNESS WHEREOF, HERETOFORE, and others of that nature are not used merely to protect the profession? I’m currently trying to get my attorney to finish execution of a full release (this should have been relatively simple) and the insurance company with which I secured a surety bond is finding pause with items within the release such as the IN WITNESS WHEREOF clause referencing that “the parties hereto do agree to the date referenced here below” and yet there is no date below and there were no witnesses or individuals who signed in a capacity as a witness. I mentioned this to my attorney at the time of drafting and he told my wife and I to sign only. I had written a release that I feel was more clear than his because he allowed the date the mediator indicated as the deadline for the release to come and go before he even drafted a first pass of the release. I should have added a date next to my signature regardless of his advice. As for witnesses, is the document a witness? Are we witnesses to one another? The other party whom you will not find within a room with my wife or I without security signed the release at another office and on another date and definitely not in the presence of my wife, me, or an agent thereof. Reading some of the archaic language my attorney so relishes in using I wonder if he ever rereads the document to understand that he is making a simple thing so much harder. I believe that if all parties understand what they are doing (acknowledgement) and that the language in the document conveys to a third party what the intent of the document is that some of the House of Commons, white wig wearing enigmatic verbiage can be dispensed from such documents. I can also attest to the fact that many lawyers with whom I’ve dealt lack writing skills commensurate with clausal leads like “WHEREFORE” in regards to such words having one definition in context much less several. I’m not sure what is being taught in law schools these days but the essential skills to write and execute legal documents seem to be forgone and instead many lawyers seem to be masters of short pithy “sent from my IPHONE” e-mail responses sent from the car or court and are eloquent ‘texters’ (an oxymoron as their texts are shorter and less substantive than the pithy e-mails but still bill at 2/5 of an hour). When it comes time to send important documents the client hired them to create, administer, and execute the client is frustrated as they seem to be practicing trial and error and my attorney likes to blame the other party’s attorney, the clerk’s office, and the insurance company and agent as well as my wife and I from time to time. He is not my regular attorney and I’ve dealt with several attorneys in the last 10 years and base my comments above on experience with probably 15 different persons in the profession here locally. In short, If the document does not clearly accomplish the purpose for which it was written then you need to kindly refund your client’s money and go brush up on contract writing and leave the “Olde English” to Mr. Chaucer and Shakespeare. To quote a previous post….Mr. Strzalkowski…..”The quality of writing is apparently so bad in America, that 15 years ago if not more my law school (University of Florida) introduced a mandatory Legal Drafting class as a 2L course. In the first few weeks we were tortured with grammar exercises and why it’s rarely a good idea to use a passive voice in contracts and pleadings. We were taught to use a plain language and that “may”, “will” and present tense all have their specific applications.” The quality of writing has deteriorated further and the expectations of society have allowed it to do so.


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