Why does Bryan Garner recommend deleting shall from all legal instruments?
ANSWER: Several reasons: (1) It is the most frequently litigated word in the English language. (2) Not 1 lawyer in 100 uses it consistently in mandatory senses. (3) In most contracts, it bears three or four meanings — thereby violating the presumption of consistent usage. (4) The bar as a whole cannot be trained to employ the word properly. (5) Experience shows just how much clearer legal drafting becomes without the word.
Legal Writing in Plain English 105-07 (2001).
Scalia & Garner, Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts 112-15 (2012).
Garner on Language and Writing 174-79, 183 (2009).
Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage 952-55 (3d ed. 2011).
Lesson # 80
What is the plural of attorney general, and is it correct to refer to an AG as “General So-and-So”?
ANSWER: The plural is attorneys general. (The plural abbreviation is AG’s or AGs.) And it has been traditionally considered a solecism to say, for example, “General Holder” or “General Verrilli.” In the phrases attorney general and solicitor general, the word general functions as a postpositive adjective. It is purely a misunderstanding that led 20th- and 21st-century lawyers to turn general into a quasi-military title. Even Chief Justice Roberts does it, so the traditional (and strictly correct) view seems doomed to oblivion.
Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage 387 (3d ed. 2011).
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