LawProse Lesson #229: Is “pursuant to” ever useful?
Is the phrase “pursuant to” ever substantively or stylistically justified? Perhaps. But in 25 years of editing thousands of legal documents for law firms, corporate clients, and government agencies, the lawyer-editors at LawProse have never encountered a sentence that needed it. The phrase is pure legalese: it does little more than make legal writers feel lawyerly. Precise legal writers prefer (1) under, (2) in accordance with, or (3) as authorized by—three senses blurred by the blunderbuss adverbial phrase pursuant to. Sometimes it’s even replaceable with for and by. Yes, senses 2 and 3 are three words instead of two. But here clarity and plain English prevail over brevity. Try striking pursuant to from your working vocabulary. Both you and your readers will benefit—you from improved mental hygiene and they from improved readability. Further reading: Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage 737-38 (3d ed. 2011). The Winning Brief 338-39 (3d ed. 2014).