This section is from the book "The Law Of Contracts", by William Herbert Page. Also available from Amazon: Commercial Contracts: A Practical Guide to Deals, Contracts, Agreements and Promises.
Where the offer does not prescribe any specific manner of acceptance any form of communicating intention to accept the offer, made to the party making the offer or to some one duly authorized to represent him is sufficient, and converts the offer into a promise or agreement.1 Among the forms of acceptance held proper are the following: replying to an offer of a position as teacher, "Yes, I guess I will take the school";2 where A wrote asking lowest prices, on certain sizes of fruit jars; B replied giving prices, adding "for immediate acceptance," and A telegraphed "enter order for ten carloads," and wrote directing manner of shipment;3 acceptance of a call to fill a pulpit at a fixed salary;4 accepting an allowance of a valid claim by the trustees of a municipal corporation;5 an acceptance of a written bid, entered upon the city records;6 a vote of a town to buy waterworks which by the charter of the water company might be bought by the town;7 and filing a bill for specific performance of an irrevocable option to sell land.8 A bid may be accepted by a statement made to a bidder when the bids are opened: "I guess it is up to you. Yours is the lowest bid."9 A receipt which describes and accepts a printed contract, may serve as an acceptance.10 If A sends to B a memorandum of goods that A orders and B returns such memorandum with the statement that this order is taken subject to strikes and the like, and that B will not accept any cancellation on the above order, such reply of B's is an acceptance of A's offer; or at least, if B's reply is a counteroffer, A's acceptance of goods shipped by B under such counteroffer is an acceptance of the counter-offer.11 If the promisee signs and returns a written offer it amounts prima facie to an acceptance.12 Writing, "I accept this offer * * * " on the back of the letter which contains the offer, and signing it and sending it to the adversary party, amounts to an acceptance.13 A receipt which recites that a written policy of insurance has been "accepted," does not show an agreement on the part of the insured to modify the oral contract under which such policy issued.14 "Writing "approved" on plans does not amount to an acceptance of the offer under which the plans were delivered.15 The effect of a promise by the offeree to give prompt attention to the order, is a question upon which there is a conflict of authority. An acknowledgment of the receipt of "the following contracts for which we thank you," followed by a list of the orders sent in by the offeror, has been held to be an acceptance;16 and it was said to be error to submit to the jury the question whether or not such answer was intended as an acceptance.17 If an order is sent which is subject to the approval of the seller, a letter written by the seller to the effect that such order "is duly to hand and will receive our prompt and careful attention," is said to be probably an acceptance; but if not an acceptance, it is evidence of acceptance from which it follows by subsequent silence for a considerable space of time an absolute acceptance might be inferred;18 especially since the purchaser treated it as an acceptance and claimed the right to cancel the order only by virtue of a special provision to that effect which he claimed to exist.19 On the other hand, a notice sent by the offeree that the order shall "have attention,"20 or "prompt attention,"21 or "prompt and careful attention,"22 has been held not to amount to an acceptance, on the theory that the promise to give the order attention meant to consider the order further, either accepting it or rejecting it. A letter in which the offeree thanks the offeror for his order and expresses a hope for "a nice trade in our line of goods," has been held to amount to an acceptance.23 If the promisee signs a written contract for the sale of books and allows the promisor's agent to take the contract away and to forward it to the promisor, the promisee is bound thereby, although he has made a different oral contract with such agent, of which contract the vendor is not informed.24 If the acceptance is not definite, but leaves a doubt as to the liability assumed by the promisee, no contract exists. Thus no contract was held to exist where A, who was looking up lands of B, clearing title, etc., wrote to B proposing that he should receive one-half lands and pay his own expenses or one-third lands and expenses clear; and B answered, "go ahead and get all our lands clear, and, after all entanglements are removed, satisfactory arrangements will be made. Perhaps your ideas are not too high."25 An offer made in writing,26 or verbally,27 may be accepted by telegram,28 or by telephone.29 If an offer calls for the performance of an act, performance of such act is a sufficient acceptance. An offer to sell realty for a certain price is accepted by tender of the specified price in accordance with the specified conditions.30
1 Illinois. Summers v. Hibbard, 153 111. 102, 46 Am. St. Rep. 872, 38 N. E. 899.
Kansas. Bauman v. McManus, 75 Kan. 106, 10 L. R. A. (N.S.) 1138, 89 Ac. 15.
Missouri. McLean v. Gymnasium Association, 64 Mo. App. 55.
Nebraska. Wullenwaher v. Dunnigan, SO Neb. 877, 13 L. R. A. 811, 47 N. W. 420.
New York. Orr v. Doubleday, 223 N. Y. 334, 1 A. L. R. 338, 119 N. E. 552.
Vermont. Drew v. Edmunds, 60 Vt. 401, 6 Am. St. Rep. 122, 15 Atl. 100. An option to lessees to renew may be accepted by a notice, "We hereby notify you that it is our intention to take advantage of our rights and renew," even if such acceptance is made conditional upon the failure to accept a proposal of a transfer of such lease to another lessee. Orr v. Doubleday, 223 N. Y. 334, 1 A L. R. 338, 119 N. E. 552.
2 "Guess" was here used in its popular sense: School Directors v. Newman, 47 III. App. 364 (even if he suggested a change in the date of opening).
3 Fairmount Glass Works v. Wooden-ware Co., 106 Ky. 659, 51 S. W. 106.
4 Jennings v. Scarborough, 56 N. J. L. 401, 28 Atl. 559.
5 McConoughy v. Jackson, 101 Cal. 265, 40 Am. St. Rep. 53, 35 Ac. 863.
6 Ft. Madison v. Moore, 109 la. 476, 80 N. W. 527.
7 Braintree, etc., Co. v. Braintree, 146 Mass. 482, 16 N. E. 420.
8 Black v. Maddox, 104 Ga. 157, 30 S. E. 723 [citing Woodruff v. WoodruflT, 44 N. J. Eq. 349, 1 L. R. A. 380, 16 Atl. 4].
9 Lane v. Warren, 53 Tex. Civ. App. 122, 115 S. W. 903.
10 Fruit Dispatch Co. v. Gilinsky, 84 Neb. 821, 122 N. W. 45 [rehearing denied, 85 Neb. 475, 123 N. W. 1018].
11 Talcott v. Freedman, 140 Mich. 32 103 N. W. 535.
12 W. G. Taylor Co. v. Bannerman, 120 Wis. 189, 97 N. W. 918.
13 Gough v. Loomis, 123 la. 642, 99 N. W. 295.
14 Willoughby v. Hannon, 156 Ala. 585, 47 So. 241.
15 Moore v. Saunders, 88 Wash. 602, 153 Ac. 329.
16 Jordan v. Patterson, 67 Conn. 473, 35 Atl. 521.
17 Jordan v. Patterson, 67 Conn. 473, 35 Atl. 521.
18 Bauman v. McManus, 75 Ran. 106, 10 L. R. A. (N.S.) 1138, 89 Ac. 15.
19 Bauman v. McManus, 75 Kan. 106, 10 L. R. A. (N.S.) 1138, 89 Ac. 15.
20 Rees v. Warwick, 2 Barn. & Ald. 113.
If an offer calls for a promise to perform an act, such offer may be accepted by making such promise, although such act is not yet performed.31 An offer by A to B to divide A's interest in the estate of a common ancestor with B, in consideration of B's not contesting the will of such ancestor, is accepted by B's promising not to contest such will.32 If a written offer is made by A to B and B attempts to accept it both orally and in writing, a contract is made if either method of acceptance is sufficient; 33 and if the oral acceptance complies with the terms of the offer, the failure of the written acceptance so to comply does not render the oral acceptance invalid.34 If A makes an alternative offer to B, B's notice to A that he takes advantage of one alternative, was said to be an election, at least if communicated to A and if A did not object.35
21 Manier v. Appling, 112 Ala. 663,20 So. 978.
22 Courtney Shoe Co. v. Curd, 142 Ky. 219, 134 S. W. 146.
23 Parlin ft Orendorff Co. v. Boatman, 84 Mo. App. 67.
24 Putnam v. Macleod, 23 R. I. 373, 50 Atl. 646.
25 Bowen v. Hart, 101 Fed. 376, 41 C. C. A. 390.
26 Cochrane v. Mining Co., 16 Colo. 415, 26 Ac. 780.
27 Cobb v. Foree, 38 111. App. 255.
28 See Sec. 199 et seq.
29 Smith v. Ingram, 90 Ala. 529, 8 So. 144; Tyng v. Converse, 180 Mich. 195, 146 N. W. 629.
30 Agar v. Streeter, 183 Mich. 600, L. R. A. 1915D, 196, 150 N. W. 160.
31 Breen v. Mayne, 141 la. 399, 118 N. W. 441.
32 Blount v. Wheeler, 199 Mass. 330, 85 N. E. 477.