Definitions: A Drafting Point

Two lawyers at my firm asked which formulation I preferred:

“Notice” has the meaning ascribed to it in Section 9.1.

“Notice” has the meaning ascribed in Section 9.1.

“Notice” has the meaning ascribed thereto in Section 9.1.

Being a dangerous radical, I opted for the second one. It’s the simplest.

Thereto is to be avoided at all costs, and to it in the first possibility really doesn’t add anything.

The more senior of the two lawyers made a good point, though.

Opposing counsel will probably want to add the to it, so leaving it out would only occasion more of a mark-up and more work for you. Sometimes it is better to give people what they expect, rather than what you know is better drafting.

Another possibility would be to say assigned instead of ascribed (and the more senior lawyer sent a neat chart depicting the gradual decline of ascribed since 1800, from Google Books).

Other possibilities:

“Notice” has the meaning given to it in Section 9.1.

“Notice” has the meaning given it in Section 9.1. [But North Americans tend not to use give this way: Give it me would strike them as alien, and it is (while perfectly normal in the UK).] 

“Notice” is defined in Section 9.1.

“Notice”, as defined in section 9.1, …

Or just say Notice (with an upper-case N) and assume your reader can Control+F to find section 9.1.  

The point is that there lots of ways to express something, some better (and plainer) than others. 

Go with what you think your audience will want – unless you can clearly show why your rendition is superior.

Thanks to Zale Skolnik and Neill Kalvin for the question!

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)


  1. Farrell Macdonald

    I am ascribing all kinds of awesome to this post- now please give us more!

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