Use of "the" with capitalized items in legal texts
Thread poster: Sergiy Cherednichenko

Sergiy Cherednichenko
Ukraine
Local time: 12:42
Russian to English
+ ...
Nov 17, 2008

Dear colleagues,

recently I've translated a charter from Ukrainian into English and the editor who reviewed my work pointed out that in legal texts capitalized items should be used without "the" as all of such terms are definite and there is no need to redefine them. I looked through some of previously translated documents composed by native speaker lawyers, partly from Linklaters and Salans, and in most of them "the" was used with capitalized items through the whole text. Still, in some documents which I found on the web "the" was omitted.

So, the question arose, if there are any special rules regulating the use of "the" in legal documents? Or, maybe, various approaches?


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Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 12:42
Turkish to English
+ ...
There is no such rule Nov 17, 2008

I disagree strongly with this simplistic rule which alleges that capitalised items are always used without the definite article in legal texts. I do not think it has anything to do with whether the text is legal or not. The rules governing the use of articles in English are, as I am sure you are well aware, very complex. By way of example, I have located the following sentence in which the use of the definite article is, in my opinion, mandatory regardless of whether the text is deemed to be "legal" or not:

http://www.ban.org/country_status/country_status_chart.html

"The European Commission of the European Economic Community, now known as the European Union, has ratified the Convention as have most of their member states."


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B D Finch  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 11:42
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Presumably your editor was not a native speaker of English Nov 17, 2008

Absolute rubbish! Capitalising the noun does not affect whether or not a definite article is required or would be OK. Legal documents have to be precise and tend to use jargon or specialist language (depending on one's point of view and whether it is gratuitous or clarifies the meaning) - other than, that the normal rules of grammar and style apply.

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Sergiy Cherednichenko
Ukraine
Local time: 12:42
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Some comments Nov 17, 2008

Colleagues, many thanks for expressing your opinions!

Well, that's true, the editor wasn't a native English speaker but he had graduated from an American university, so there is a ground to suspect that ultimately such idea had been advised to him by another native speaker.

I wouldn't concentrate on this issue if I didn't see any other grounds for his point of view. Let's compare two documents:

http://contracts.onecle.com/hutchison-telecom/tax.indemn.2004.09.24.shtml

and

http://contracts.onecle.com/accoona/spbd-consult-2006-08-04.shtml

In the first case terms defining participants ("Indemnifier" and "Company") are used with "the" throughout the text. In the second there is no "the" with the same ("Company" and "Consulting Firm"). Presumably, both documents were composed by native speakers. Maybe someone could advise a reasonable ground for not using "the" in the second text? Or why it's incorrect.


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:42
French to English
Style issue? Nov 17, 2008

I have certainly seen contracts and similar documents where capitalised terms (which usually indicates that they are defined somewhere in the document) do not have a definite article. And this does indeed make them look a little "odd" and at first sight makes them look as though they break the usual conventions of English grammar. So in that respect, your editor is right.

I'm not aware, however, of any hard and fast rule. I have also seen contracts where capitalised terms are given definite or indefinite articles as conventional grammar would usually require.

I believe it is simply a question of style and preference. It might be worth checking whether this is a UK/USA difference - I haven't time to check my own files now, but I have an inkling that omission of the article might be an American style, thinking about 2 examples that I definitely recall were from the US (a contract for an oil company and an insurance policy). Note too that US/UK legal style also varies on the issue of use of "will" and "shall", for example.


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Graham Poole  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:42
Member (2008)
Russian to English
Matter of style/preference Nov 17, 2008

Don't believe there is any Supreme Grammatical Authority that governs this little issue, or that it is simply a matter of UK/US usage. I think that often the "the" is dropped to "tighten up" the text and make it plainer, more easily readable.

The very common words used in contracts, for example, like "Buyer", "Seller", "Contractor" and so forth, are very often used without "the", especially when they are at the start of the sentence; but then some words or phrases that are defined early in the text (such as "Pipeline" or "Industrial Facility" or even "Contract" itself) would look and sound strange without it, so "the" is retained throughout the text.

Ultimately I think it's what sounds acceptable to an English legalistic ear which, as we all know, comes in several different varieties...


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xxxVerse 5B
Local time: 11:42
English to Serbian
+ ...
... Nov 17, 2008

Article usage will vary depending on context, voice, tone and rhythm.

Example : When I was a student, my professor took a text in which articles were omitted. He then gave it to two native English speakers ( U.S. professors). He asked them to review the text and fill in the missing articles where they think they should consequently stay in the text( whether it be indefinite or definite articles).

When he received the two documents from each of them, you won't believe it, they used articles at different places ( although sometimes at the same places too).

Conclusion : rules referring to article usage are very flexible and will sometimes depend on the overall context and text structure.


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The Misha
Local time: 05:42
Russian to English
+ ...
These days everybody and his brother graduates from American Universities ... Nov 18, 2008

... and this fact alone does not make a person a language authority. Like other colleagues pointed out, there are very few hard and fast rules in English grammar - that's the beauty of it.

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JackieMcC
Local time: 11:42
French to English
UK/US Nov 18, 2008

Hello,
Based on the large number of legal docs I've seen and translated over the years, I would say this is essentially a UK/US thing.
It is common in US legal documents to drop the article, whereas British lawyers/authors tend to use the article.
I tend to apply this general rule when translating. So in a contract into British English I would start a sentence "The Supplier agrees...", for a US client it would be "Supplier agrees...".
Of course, it can also be a matter of individual style and I'm sure there are also some Brits out there who like to drop the article and vice versa.
Jackie


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