Tag Archives: shall or will

Shall: how to avoid using shall

By Mary Morel

Is the word shall dying out of the English language?

I was taught to say I shall, you will, he/she will, but I seldom use shall these days.

I occasionally use it in a question to make offers or ask for advice.

Shall I bring a plate?
What shall we do about the situation?

Why writers avoid shall

These days, many legal writers avoid shall because:

  • Not many people understand the traditional distinctions between will and shall
  • Shall is sometimes interpreted as may
  • Shall may be interpreted as the future tense rather than an obligation

Must is often used in legal writing for obligations and duties.

How to avoid shall

  • Use must for obligations or duties.

The client must meet the deadlines.

  • Use may to convey discretion or permission.

The client may ask for an extension.

  • Use will for the future tense.

The client will submit a report at the end of the project.

  • Use the present tense when appropriate.

If the client defaults. (Not If the client shall default.)

Online grammar programs

Learn more about writing styles with my online course, Styles for Business Writing (A$39).

View the full list of Online Writing Training courses.


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