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In a license for commercial software, I have recently encountered the following perl pearl of perspicuous and immaculate syntax:

[company] does not warrant that use of the Software will operate uninterrupted or error free.

Since use cannot operate in any sense, shall the whole sentence be annuled and the license treated as if without it?

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    "Perl" is a programming language, you should have used "pearl", does that detract from the intent of your question and should therefore be invalidated? – Ron Beyer May 1 at 18:11
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    No, you cannot. Law has always been about intent, not the literal word. – Ron Beyer May 1 at 19:06
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    It simply says that the software is not guaranteed to operate "error free" or "uninterrupted". They aren't refusing responsibility (that may be spelled out elsewhere), they are just trying to say that "this might crash or produce incorrect results". Otherwise somebody like me might stick it in an industrial control system and start suing people when the software crashes and the system malfunctions. – Ron Beyer May 1 at 19:19
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    There have been cases where a tiny mistake changed the meaning of a term in a contract (there was a case of a faulty comma costing someone more than $10 million), but in this case the meaning is not changed, so the contract stands. – gnasher729 May 1 at 20:37
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    If your use of the software does not function as anticipated, then it has failed to operate (intransitive verb: "to produce an appropriate effect") correctly. It would appear that "use" can "operate"... – Chronocidal May 2 at 21:57
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company does not warrant that use of the Software will operate uninterrupted or error free.

A court will not find that statement to be ambiguous or contradictory. Mere grammatical differences will not void a contract. See Typing errors in legal contract

I have recently encountered the following perl of perspicuous and immaculate syntax:

Correct grammar and usage is "pearl", not "perl". Perl is a programming language; as for a pearl, you must be thinking of the definition of Pearl Of Wisdom (Merriam-Webster).

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  • And anyway, an awful lot of what lawyers consider correct grammar (for example, omitted punctuation) would be considered incorrect in any other context. You can't judge legal language by the standards of ordinary plain English. – Michael Kay May 3 at 9:48
  • @MichaelKay do you mean parenthetical expressions? I believe the commas are removed to make them inseparable from the surrounding sentece, and I have no grudge about it. – Ant_222 May 3 at 14:23
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Since use cannot operate in any sense, shall the whole sentence be annuled and the license treated as if without it?

No. The statement is intelligible enough for a reasonable person would grasp the substance thereof; namely, that the company cannot be held liable for software interruptions or bugs. Therefore, the sentence is not to be voided or stricken.

Licenses and contracts in general are premised --inter alia-- on the parties' awareness of the conditions, not on the grammatical correctness of how these are expressed.

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  • I would say rather than on the parties' awareness, on what a reasonable person's interpretation would be. The two can be in conflict, but it will generally be the latter which will prevail. – JBentley May 3 at 13:55
  • @JBentley The criterion of reasonable person's interpretation is relevant where there is no evidence of how the parties understood (and thus became aware of) the binding terms. The context given by the OP most likely fits that scenario. But if evidence shows that the parties had a specific understanding when forming the contract, there is no need to assess how a reasonable person would interpret their contract. – Iñaki Viggers May 3 at 17:19

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