Avoid ritual terms and phrases

Ditch terms like "whereas" and phrases like "comes now before the court."

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A particularly obnoxious form of legalese is the use of ritual terms and phrases — incantations that are essentially meaningless. Consider the bond contract below, which includes the ritual terms and phrases WITNESSETH, WHEREAS, and for its lawful corporate purposes. You could also consider duly authorized and terms and conditions to be ritual phrases.[1]

Here are some more examples of ritual phrases taken from real legal filings:

  • Whereas CONTRACTOR shall cause to be built, a semisubmersible drilling unit, ‘Drilling Unit.’”

  • NOW, THEREFORE, COMPANY and CONTRACTOR, for and in consideration of the mutual covenants and agreements contained herein and good and valuable consideration paid by COMPANY to CONTRACTOR, the receipt and sufficiency of which are acknowledged by CONTRACTOR, the Parties hereby agree as follows:”

  • THIS AGREEMENT entered into this, the 17th day of July, 2012, by and between ERIN THIBODEAUX, (hereinafter ‘Employee’) and Hughes Brown, PLLC, witnesseth:”

  • “The Yucca Hills Homeowners Association Inc., a NonProfit Corporation incorporated under the rules and regulations of TITLE 10, Arizona Revised Statutes, comes now before the court requesting that this corporation’s Motion to Dismiss this action be received favorably by the court.”

When revising — especially when repurposing old contracts and briefs — look for and eradicate such meaningless or redundant phrases.


[1]     Duly is implicit in authorized, and terms and conditions is a redundant doublet; terms alone suffices, as a term can contain a condition.

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Ryan McCarl teaches Advanced Legal Writing and researches artificial intelligence law and policy at the UCLA School of Law. He is also a partner at the law firm Rushing McCarl LLP. You can follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter as well as his personal blog.