In government resolutions, sometimes you have text worded as below:

Whereas the United States is currently experiencing several related crises, with— ....

Whereas climate change, pollution, and environmental destruction have...

to separate clauses. An example of this wording structure can be seen here. I added elipses since the content is irrelevant to the context of this question.

The structure and placement of the word "Whereas" seems intentional. It exclusively appears at the beginning of clauses that are spaced out. Hence my question...


Does the word "Whereas" serve a specific procedural purpose in U.S. government resolutions?


3 Answers 3


This is a (somewhat dated) form of argumentation that continues on as a matter of convention or tradition. When legislators write a bill, one of the things they want to do is list out the various reasons that the act is necessary, useful, and important. Each 'whereas' clause lists out a specific factor involved in the reasoning that leads to the conclusion. In a more modern format we would tend to use built points, e.g.:

Given that all the following are true:

  • Johnny smells like a skunk
  • Johnny sounds like a cow
  • Johnny acts like a pig

We have decided not to have anything more to do with Johnny.

but in the older, more formal format a legislator would write:

Whereas Johnny smells like a skunk,

Whereas Johnny sounds like a cow,

Whereas Johnny acts like a pig,

It is resolved not to associate with Johnny further.

The two passages make exactly the same argument, content-wise, but there's no denying that the latter sounds more formal and officious. Pretense is part of the political process.


Does the word "Whereas" serve a specific procedural purpose in U.S. government resolutions?

Yes, in the sense, procedural: Relating to an established or official way of doing something.


When whereas is placed at the beginning of a legislative bill, it means "because" and is followed by an explanation for the enactment of the legislation.

Finally, whereas is often used in official proclamations to project the solemnity of the occasion.

The term has been criticized as an overused legal formalism that clutters contracts and other legal documents. Legal formalism means the special usages of the language of law, many of which are archaic and which are flourishes of a style long dead.

United States Congress Data Dictionary of Legislative Documents in the context of XML documents.

A statement of a single ”why” for a resolution. The text “Whereas” is generally the first word in each whereas element.


Common law is based on the principle of precedent, meaning that if courts have already ruled on something, they will [almost always] rule the same way when similar situations occur in future cases.

The courts have already ruled on the meaning of "Whereas...." many times.

If a lawyer is about to author a new legal text, she has two choices:

  1. Use wording that has already been firmly established because it was ruled on many times.
  2. Use some other wording, and risk having it challenged in court.

It is pretty clear that it is better to take the 100% bet, everything else being equal.

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