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Is it correct to say in a legal document something like: "Shall you cross the street on red light, you will be penalised" to add some emphasis? I've seen something like this before, but cannot find a reference.

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  • Legal texts tend to use shall rather than will. Possibly that's just because everyone used shall more often in the past, and by their very nature, legal texts don't change much, so most of them are written using old-fashioned vocabulary and syntax (that was maybe more "current" when the law was first created). But whatever the reason, many people will say that You shall go to the ball is more "forceful" than You will go to the ball (where the first one almost implies that some "Law of Nature" compels the predicted future). Sep 28 at 11:17
  • @FumbleFingers Legal texts typically prescribe actions in the third person (notices might do it in the second person) but in either case, "will" is liable to misinterpreted as a simple prediction of the future, whilst "shall" traditionally denotes obligation (except in the first person). However, in some jurisdictions the use of "shall" is now discouraged and "must" is promoted instead. See also ell.stackexchange.com/a/284676/60894
    – rjpond
    Sep 28 at 11:55
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    I’m voting to close this question because it asks for advice about terminology in a legal document and is better asked in a legal-oriented site.
    – mdewey
    Sep 28 at 15:26
  • Documents declaring laws don't directly address perpetrators in the 2nd person. They describe actions, then say what offence a person who does that action shall be guilty of having committed, and later in the document what the punishment shall be.
    – gotube
    Sep 28 at 17:51
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You can't say:

Shall you cross the street on red light, you will be penalised

That's ungrammatical.

You can say:

Should you cross the street on red light, you will be penalised

which is equivalent to

If you should cross the street on red light, you will be penalised

and means the same as

If you cross the street on red light, you will be penalised

Note: if you want to write a legal document, you should seek specialist advice. I am not going to comment on whether this would be good wording for a legal document.

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