I am to formulate sections about successorship in by-laws. It's a bilingual document. The non-english version is crisp and clear, however, despite having decent knowledge of the English language it's not my mother tongue, and I struggle with proper phrasing.

The general idea is to try very hard to find a successor for an unexpectedly quitting partner.

If a partner quits and no successor had been appointed,

  1. the eldest member of the board, or, if not applicable,
  2. the next-eldest member of the board, respectively, or, if not applicable,
  3. the eldest associate, or, if not applicable,
  4. the next-eldest associate, respectively, or, if not applicable,

[goes on and goes on]

is promoted to a partner.

The section should work like this: First try to appoint the eldest member (1). If he declines or does not match certain criteria (not discussed here), the second eldest member is tried, then the third eldest member and so on (2) until a successor is found or search is exhausted.

If and only if following (1) and (2) didn't come up with a successor, (3) kicks in and tries the eldest associate, then (4) with the second-eldest, third-eldest etc. until found or exhausted.

At any rate, the search shall stop in (2) or (4) as soon as a suitable successor is found.

Therefore, I used the word respectively but it sounds wrong as it means: Map each X to a previously mentioned distinct Y.

This is not the case. If X is the potential successor, there is no Y for each X.

I also tried each instead of respectively making matters even worse, now sounding whether every person listed in the section will become successor of the quit partner.

So how would I phrase the mentioned successorship rules such that they stay clear, brief and crisp, and straightforwardly convey to an English reader that the search will end as soon as the first eligible successor has been found?


1 Answer 1


Your explanation appears clear and succinct. Why not use that?

You could say something like...

If a partner quits and no successor had been appointed, the partner is replaced by the first eligible person to accept an offer of partnership made in this order:

  • to a member of the board, chosen in descending order of age
  • to an associate, chosen in descending order of age
  • ...

This specifies the person must be eligible ("match certain criteria" in your question) and must accept the offer. If neither applies, the offer is made to the next in order. The new partner is the first person who matches all the criteria, when the process stops.

This does turn your sentence/list around, putting the "replacement/promotion" wording before the list. I believe this makes it clearer, by setting up all the simple criteria before the complex one of the order in which to make the offer. However the complex ordering is also simplified, by combining (1) and (2) into a single list item, and (3) and (4): just say "of this group, start at the oldest and continue to the youngest".

  • Thank you four your hints! So in your point of view using respectively is not wrong here? Your rephrasing indeed makes the intent clearer.
    – aker
    Nov 12, 2022 at 20:22
  • Respectively is definitely wrong, as you explained in your question, which is why I haven't used it.
    – Andrew Leach
    Nov 13, 2022 at 8:36

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.