Thursday, April 17, 2014
Lawyers are often told that the word shall is prescriptive, meaning that something is required. But as NKU Chase Professor Phillip Sparks pointed out in a recent Kentucky Bench and Bar column, shall can actually have several meanings and may be more confusing than helpful. Sparkes points out that England, Scotland, Australia, and New Zealand have largely eliminated shall from legal writing. Often the simple present tense will suffice: in a definition, instead of "the chief executive officer shall mean . . . ," the drafter can write, " The chief executive officer means . . . " Sparkes concludes, "Shall is disappearing from standard English. Let's not rescue it for legal English, shall we?" Read the full column at page 26 of the March 2014 Bench and Bar Magazine.