Contract Recitals

What Are Contract Recitals?

Contract recitals, often found at the beginning of legal agreements, set the stage for the document’s purpose and context. They provide background information, outline the parties’ intentions, and establish the framework within which the contract operates. These statements typically precede the operative provisions and do not generally contain enforceable terms. They frame the reader’s understanding of the contract and clarify the parties’ intentions. This clarity is instrumental in interpreting the contract’s terms during disputes or misunderstandings.


  • Background statements
  • Contract preamble
  • Introductory clauses
  • Whereas clauses

Function of Recitals

The primary function of contract recitals is to offer a narrative that explains why the contract exists. They outline the context and circumstances that led to the agreement, thereby aiding in the interpretation of its terms. Additionally, recitals help identify the contract’s scope and the relationship between the parties.

Recitals enhance the comprehension of a contract by illuminating the intentions behind specific clauses. This illumination is particularly valuable in resolving ambiguities or interpreting broad or vague terms within the operative sections of the contract.

Types of Contract Recitals

Understanding the different types of recitals and their specific roles is critical for both drafting and interpreting contracts. The four common types of contract recitals are contextual, purpose, reference, and definition recitals.

Contextual Recitals

Contextual recitals offer a snapshot of the situation or environment that led to the contract’s formation. This type of recital is crucial in setting the stage for the agreement by outlining the circumstances or events that necessitate the contract.

For instance, consider a complex contract for the construction of a commercial building. A contextual recital might detail the growing demand for office space in the area, the recent development of nearby infrastructure, or changes in local zoning laws that have made the project feasible.

Purpose Recitals

Purpose recitals clarify the objectives and goals that the parties intend to achieve through the contract. This type of recital is vital for aligning the expectations of all parties and providing a clear direction for the agreement.

For example, in a merger agreement, a purpose recital could state the goal of expanding market reach, combining resources for innovation, or achieving operational efficiencies. This recital sets a clear framework for the intended outcomes of the merger.

Reference Recitals

Reference recitals are used to link the current contract to previous agreements, documents, or legal frameworks. They ensure continuity and consistency between related contracts and can be crucial in understanding the full context of the agreement.

Consider how a contract for the supply of raw materials might include a reference recital to a prior non-disclosure agreement (NDA) signed between the parties. This recital indicates that the terms of the NDA are still in effect and relevant to the current contract.

Definition Recitals

Definition recitals are employed to define critical terms used throughout the contract. By establishing clear definitions from the outset, these recitals help prevent ambiguity and misinterpretation of the contract’s provisions.

For example, in a software licensing agreement, a definition recital might clearly define terms such as “software,” “licensee,” “licensor,” and “intellectual property.” This clarity is essential for ensuring that all parties mutually understand these key terms and their implications within the contract.

Another example is a contract involving the use of patented technology. The definition recital might provide precise definitions for terms like “patent rights,” “technology transfer,” and “commercial use.” This ensures that these terms are interpreted consistently throughout the contract, avoiding potential disputes over their meaning after the contract is signed.

Integrating Recitals 

Each recital type plays a distinct role in painting a complete picture of the contract. Contextual and purpose recitals establish the ‘why’ behind the contract, setting the stage for the agreement. Reference recitals connect the current contract to a broader legal and contractual landscape, ensuring continuity and respecting existing agreements. Definition recitals, on the other hand, are about clarity and precision, defining key terms to avoid ambiguity.

In real-world contracts, these recitals often work in tandem. For example, a contract for a joint venture might begin with a contextual recital describing the market opportunities that the venture seeks to exploit. Following this, a purpose recital might outline the shared goals of the venture, such as combining expertise or resources. A reference recital could link this contract to previous agreements between the parties, ensuring that existing obligations are acknowledged and maintained. Finally, a definition recital would clarify critical terms such as “joint venture,” “profit sharing,” and “operational responsibilities.”

Difference Between Recitals and Agreement

Recitals and agreement clauses in a contract serve distinct purposes and have different legal implications. Recitals, often introductory, provide background information, context, and the overarching intent of the agreement but are generally non-enforceable. They set the scene and outline the circumstances leading to the contract. Conversely, agreement clauses are the heart of the contract, containing enforceable terms that define the rights, obligations, and remedies of the parties involved. This clear distinction is crucial in legal contexts. While recitals help interpret the contract by offering insight into the parties’ intentions, the enforceable aspects of the contract reside in the agreement clauses. In legal disputes, recitals can provide valuable context, but courts focus on the agreement clauses to determine obligations and rights.

Importance of Recitals in B2B Contracts

In B2B transactions, where decisions and clauses can be intricate and nuanced, recitals provide a narrative that elucidates these elements’ business rationale. This includes shedding light on market conditions, outlining the history of business relationships between the parties, and detailing their strategic objectives. Such comprehensive context offered by recitals is invaluable, particularly when disputes arise or when there’s a need for precise interpretation of contract terms. By explicitly stating the purpose and background of the agreement, recitals help ensure that all parties have a common understanding of the contract’s intent, thereby facilitating smoother business interactions and aiding in the effective resolution of any contractual ambiguities or conflicts.

Writing a Recital Clause

Recital clauses are characterized by their clarity, conciseness, and direct relevance to the contract. They should provide a straightforward narrative without delving into unnecessary legal complexities or jargon. The focus should be on making the recital accessible and understandable, ensuring that it accurately reflects the contract’s context and aligns with its overall purpose. To craft impactful recital clauses, specific guidelines and best practices should be adhered to.

Considerations for Clarity and Relevance

  • Specificity in Context: Clearly articulate the background and purpose of the contract. The recital should serve as a guide to understanding the circumstances that led to the agreement, be it a business opportunity, a legal requirement, or a collaborative venture.
  • Alignment with Contract’s Purpose: Ensure that the recital is in harmony with the objectives and scope of the contract. It should provide a foundation upon which the agreement clauses are built, offering insight into the intentions behind the contract.

Best Practices for Comprehensive Recital Writing

  • Focus on Key Facts: Center the recital around the facts that have led to the formation of the contract. This includes the primary objectives, the parties involved, and the context of the agreement.
  • Consistency with the Contract: The recital should seamlessly integrate with the rest of the contract. It must not contradict or conflict with the agreement clauses but rather complement and elucidate them.
  • Avoid Legally Binding Terms: Recitals are not meant to be enforceable terms of the contract. Therefore, avoid language that could be misconstrued as creating legal obligations or rights. The aim is to provide context, not to stipulate conditions or terms.

For instance, in drafting a recital for a partnership agreement, focus on outlining the mutual goals and visions that led to the partnership. Highlight the synergy between the entities and how this collaboration aligns with their strategic objectives. Ensure that the recital is a clear, straightforward introduction to the formal agreement clauses that follow, thus setting a coherent and comprehensible tone for the entirety of the contract.

Enforceability of Recitals

Typically, recitals are not legally binding. They are interpretative tools rather than enforceable parts of the contract. However, their content can influence the understanding and application of the operative clauses. In legal disputes, recitals can play a significant role in interpreting the contract’s terms and understanding the parties’ intentions. Courts often refer to the recitals for context, especially when the agreement’s clauses are ambiguous or open to multiple interpretations.

Key Takeaways

Recitals are a fundamental element in the contracting process, serving the critical function of framing the agreement. They provide essential context and clarify the intentions behind the contract, aiding significantly in its interpretation. By setting the stage, recitals ensure that the provisions of the contract are understood in the intended context, thereby facilitating clearer and more effective communication between the parties involved.

When drafting recitals, it’s important to:

  • Clearly outline the context and purpose of the contract.
  • Ensure they align with the operative provisions.
  • Avoid creating potential contradictions with the enforceable terms.

In summary, while not legally binding, recitals play an integral role in contract drafting. They enhance the clarity and understanding of the agreement, ensuring that all parties have a mutual comprehension of the contract’s intent and scope. Effective recitals are concise, contextually relevant, and aligned with the contract’s operative clauses, forming an integral part of successful contract formulation.

People Also Ask

What are common mistakes to avoid when writing contract recitals?

Common mistakes include being overly verbose, including legally binding terms, and providing irrelevant or misleading information. Recitals should be concise, relevant, and consistent with the rest of the contract.

How do recitals differ in different types of contracts, such as business agreements or real estate contracts?

In business agreements, recitals often focus on commercial intent and business relationships, while in real estate contracts, they may concentrate on property details and the background of the transaction.

What is a whereas clause?

In contract language, a “whereas clause” is a recital that introduces background information or context for the agreement. These clauses typically appear at the beginning of a contract, before the operative or substantive provisions. The purpose of whereas clauses are to provide context, explain the reasons for entering into the contract or set forth certain facts or conditions that the parties acknowledge.

For example:

“WHEREAS, Party A is the owner of certain intellectual property rights; and
WHEREAS, Party B desires to license those intellectual property rights for a specific purpose.”

These clauses don’t usually create legal obligations themselves but help in understanding the intent and context of the parties involved. They set the stage for the operative provisions that will establish the rights and responsibilities of the parties in the main body of the contract.