TIPS ON LEGAL WRITING
Prefer the singular over the pluralYou’ll find an age-old provision in statutes and contracts: “The singular includes the plural; the plural includes the singular.” Only the second part of this formulation has ever really mattered. For example, if an ordinance says, “People may not set off fireworks within the city limits,” the plural words people and fireworks create several problems. ÷ First, does the ordinance apply only to people who work in groups, but not to individuals? ÷ Second, even if it does apply to individuals, doesn’t the phrasing imply that everyone gets a freebie? That is, only fireworks are forbidden, but if you shoot off just one … (Some would make it a big one.) ÷ Third, what constitutes a violation? If you set off 30 fireworks in 30 minutes, how many times have you violated the ordinance? Once or 30 times? But if the ordinance says, “No person may set off a firework,” it avoids all those problems. That’s the beauty of the singular.