Writing numbers twice is unnecessary. It’s legalese, hard to read, and worse, more likely to cause a mistake. Let’s stop doing it!

Let me explain why it should end…

Many lawyers love to write numbers twice

For example:

Louise agrees to work at Bob’s restaurant for ten (10) hours on Saturday.

Some lawyers say it provides clarity. Some say it helps to identify the numbers as numbers (really?). Some do it because “it’s always been done that way.” And others do it to make themselves look important.

Those justifications just don’t add up (see what I did there?).

Writing numbers twice is dumb

Here’s why it is dumb to write numbers twice:

  • It doesn’t serve any legal purpose.
  • It makes contracts harder to read.
  • When contracts are hard to read, many people won’t read them.
  • It’s more likely to cause an ambiguity or mistake. (For example, Louise balks at working ten hours and only agrees to work six. So Bob deletes “10” and writes in “6” but forgets to change the “ten” to “six.” That happens. I’ve seen it. Or, if you just make a mistake when drafting the contract in the first place and write in two different numbers and no one catches it.) (Technically, most courts will enforce the written number over the Arabic numerals, but that isn’t overly helpful.)
  • When lawyers charge by the hour to redline an agreement, and they spend time adding Arabic numerals in parentheticals every time a number is written, they are simply wasting their client’s money (and causing all the problems identified above).

The right way to write numbers

This is easy. Write out numbers one through ten and use Arabic numerals for 11 and above.

There are some situations where you might always use Arabic numbers. For example when writing out formulas, when there are a lot of numbers in the sentence, or when you write percentages (like 5%). But even in those situations, you won’t write the number twice.

If you feel the urge to duplicate a number, just don’t do it. If your lawyer is trying to do it, tell him or her to stop! They’re not paying you. You’re paying them. Tell them how you want your contracts written. And tell them you won’t pay for them to insert legalese into your contracts.

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Image: Chris Brown

*This article is very general in nature and does not constitute legal advice.