Modal Verbs in Legal Documents
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Modal Verbs in Legal Documents

However, most legal writers understand that although modal verbs can sometimes be dispensable in sentences, this is not always the case. There are two main theories of usage, each named after its country of origin: the American rule and the ABC rule (Australian, British and Canadian). One of the most problematic problems faced by legal writers, and consequently translators, is the inconsistent use of modal verbs. It`s hard, but I hope this piece, along with your own instincts, experiences, and knowledge, will help you. The modal verbs most commonly used in legal writing are, must, can and should, including their negative forms (+ not). These words establish duties, rights, prohibitions, and claims, and are also called “words of authority” (Garner`s Dictionary of Legal Usage, 952). So, as we can see, there is an inherent difficulty in equating “should” with a certain meaning. In legal and everyday contexts, it is often used in different ways, so it is not particularly recommended or safe. However, if you (or your client) insist on the American rule, be consistent and everything should be fine; Remember that as a translator, you are not responsible for the accuracy of the source text. The main problem with using the word “should” in legal documents is that it has several different meanings and they are all still used. According to the U.S. rule (discussed later), this should always mean imposing tariffs on a particular party, as in “tenant must pay.” In fact, as far back as I can remember, I first heard the verb “must” in Disney`s “Cinderella”: “You should go to the ball,” the fairy godmother said.

It is quite clear that our heroine was not forced to go to the ball. It was not their duty; It was not an order. She was finally free and could walk. However, if we follow the American rule, this sweet and sanitized version of the fairy tale becomes as dark as Hans Christian Andersen`s “The Red Shoes,” in which the selfish protagonist is forced to dance and never stop. Following Bibbidy-Bobbidy-Boo`s metaphor, we turned an invitation into an order: take off your pretty glass shoes, put on the reds and start dancing until you beg for your feet to be cut off. In the real world, no end will be cut off due to the misuse of the verb “shall” in legal documents, but there will be consequences, including potential litigation. Here are Bryan Garner`s guidelines on the meaning of each modal verb under the American rule (Garner`s Dictionary of Legal Usage, 954): Here are Garner`s guidelines for the use of modal verbs under Rule ABC: However, it may also impose a general and non-specific obligation; give permission; the establishment of a conditional obligation based on voluntary measures; act as a future modal verb; make a claim; and make a suggestion or even a promise. The ABC Rule gets its name from the fact that it became popular with Australian, British and Canadian legal writers in the 1980s.

It`s a more reasonable approach that takes into account the human factor, which is that people don`t use the term consistently because it has too many meanings, so it`s best not to use the verb “should” at all. Bryan Garner, a fantastic author on legal formulations and frequently quoted in this article, adopts this rule, and so do I. By the way, do not assume that these rules are limited to certain regions of the world. Despite its name and origin, American legal writers have increasingly adopted the ABC rule today (Garner`s Dictionary of Legal Usage, 955). In fact, the use of modal verbs, especially “shall,” can be so imperfect that some legal writers prefer to avoid them altogether by choosing “the parties are obliged” instead of “the parties should” or “the parties are free” instead of “the parties may”. If it is possible to use these alternatives without losing meaning, they are good options. There is no need to go into detail here, as the emphasis is not on grammar, but especially on modal verbs in legal translation. However, a brief introduction to modal verbs will set the framework. That is, Rule ABC states that “shall” is unambiguous. It may be perceived as tough, but it is simply intransigent, and it should be, because it is supposed to impose an obligation, whether in a contract or in some other type of legal document. Modals are auxiliary verbs, that is, they cannot be autonomous: they exist to give additional meaning to the main verbs and to help determine voice, tense and mood. Together, major and modal verbs form verbal expressions such as “could” or “could.” Keep in mind that while “shall” and “may” have opposite meanings, “shall not” and “shall not” are almost synonymous.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with * Instant Play in your browser with Kindle Cloud Reader. Download the free Kindle app and instantly read Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer, no Kindle device required. The U.S. rule states that “shall” always means “has a duty to.” This rule may be a good idea, but its proponents may be too optimistic, believing that it is sufficient to impose the consistent use of the word through a simple directive. As we have seen, this is not always the case. “May” is an option; “should”, a recommendation; “may”, an authorization. “Should” and “must” are discussed in detail in advance. Customer reviews, including star ratings of products, help customers learn more about the product and decide if it`s right for them.

A word of advice: The alternative to “should” in this case is “shall”. But many American authors believe that “shall” has an unpleasant and compelling connotation that only fits into laws, regulations, laws or treaties of accession and avoids its use in treaties. After all, contracts are, by their very nature, an agreement, not an imposition. Consistency is key; It`s called the golden rule of contract design for good reason. Authors, illustrators and translators do their best to keep a model when it comes to the choice of words in technical texts. That`s why, like any other professional translator I`ve met, I`m very dedicated to glossaries and terminology databases. These are some of the tools we use to ensure quality, accuracy and readability. To calculate the total number of stars and the percentage distribution per star, we do not use a simple average. Instead, our system takes into account things like updating a review and whether the reviewer purchased the item on Amazon.

It also analyzed reviews to check for reliability. Okay, we`ve heard that before. Repeatedly. But it`s not always easy, because after all, we work with writing, not with mathematics. We (and the authors we translate) use synonyms, homonyms, idioms and the like. In addition, each word quite often has more than one meaning. Of course, context is our friend and we usually discover it. But not always, especially when a word is used consistently but inconsistently. shall be used [for all requirements other than obligations imposed on the subject matter of the clause].

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