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Bond’s testicle torment no excuse for ‘hereby’

[23 Aug 2013] After two hours (it seems like more) of gratuitous violence and incomprehensible betrayal in Casino Royale (why would anyone make such a bad film?), a world-weary James Bond, recovering improbably quickly from being tied up and having his genitals thwacked repeatedly with a thick rope, decides to send a letter of resignation to his boss, M, as follows:

‘I hereby tender my resignation with immediate effect.’

Thus is another generation of secret agents – and plenty of other impressionable people whose balls have not been as badly bruised – inspired to use the archaic and unnecessary word hereby. Here’s what the authorities say:

Mark Adler, in Clarity for Lawyers (2007): ‘Hereby is one of the [legal] profession’s favourite useless words. If A must give B notice of X, his obligation is satisfied by doing so. I give you notice that... is as superfluous as I am telling you that.... And I hereby give you notice that... adds the obvious to the obvious.’

Adler does point out that were you to write a law that said ‘The XYZ Corporation is hereby established’, removing hereby would leave a statement of fact rather than an act of creation. So it would be clearer to write, ‘This Act establishes the XYZ Corporation’.

Joseph Kimble in Lifting the Fog of Legalese (2006) says: ‘Avoid... stuffy old formalisms (Now comes; In witness whereof); here-, there-, and where- words (hereby, therein, wherefore)...’.

Bryan Garner in A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage (1995) says: ‘hereby is often a flotsam phrase that can be excised with no loss of meaning: I hereby declare has no advantages over I declare.’

Michele M Asprey in Plain Language for Lawyers (1996) is even more straightforward about hereby. She says merely: ‘Omit.’ 

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