LGST 551
Introduction to Legislative Drafting (OCW)


LGST 551
Introduction to Legislative Drafting (OCW)

Study Materials

Module 1: Section 3

How can we achieve
the Seven Cs?

Seven Basic Drafting Practices

These Materials encourage you to adopt drafting practices that contribute to these objectives. There are 7 basic practices that constitute their foundations.

  1. Analyse and plan

    When you start composing legislative sentences, make sure you already have a sound idea of what you are setting out to communicate. This calls for:

    • a clear grasp of the factual background and the existing law;
    • a good understanding of the policy behind the legal change to be made;
    • a decision on the options available to give effect to that policy;
    • a preliminary view of what matters need to be covered by new legislation;
    • an outline of how the legislation should be structured to present its provisions most effectively.
  2. Provide a rational structure

    Organise the contents of your draft text to reveal the basic structure and logical development of the legislative scheme and to make it as easy as possible for users to find what they may be looking for. This will be made more likely if:

    • the key features of the legislation are prominent;
    • there is a logical relationship between the parts and the whole;
    • related matters are in a rational sequence that emphasises the nature of their interconnection.
  3. Follow drafting standards

    Follow the standard drafting practices in your jurisdiction and, in your treatment of the subject-matter, draft consistently with related legislation. User expectations are formed by past use of legislation. You should be cautious about experimenting or innovating. An opportunity for that may arise when you are in a position to influence the direction of your drafting service!

  4. Use an effective writing style

    You should aim to make your text as easy to read as possible. This means:

    • write in standard and grammatical English;
    • communicate your ideas clearly, directly and concisely;
    • use language that is not pretentious or archaic;
    • use sentence structures that are not overloaded or complicated.
  5. Choose good presentation

    Set out your drafts so that the text is easy to work with by ensuring that:

    • plenty of "white space" appears on each page of the legislative text (the text is not densely packed);
    • sentences are short, or use paragraphing to display component parts;
    • longer texts are divided into Parts or Divisions;
    • instructive visual aids are used, such as formulae, maps and diagrams.
  6. Provide aids to finding and using

    You can help users by providing devices that make it easier for them to find their way around the legislative text. These can include:

    • intelligent section notes (or side-notes/shoulder notes);
    • helpful headings for Parts, divisions and Schedules;
    • road-maps (provisions indicating where matters are dealt with in the Bill)
    • a table of contents/arrangement of sections;
    • footnotes and marginal cross-references.
  7. Check and scrutinise

    As you complete each version of your draft text, look back at it through the eyes of someone coming to it for the first time. Once it is in an advanced stage of drafting it is unlikely that you will have time to make radical alterations to its form and organisation, but there are always opportunities to make useful improvements.

    This task is easier if you put your draft to one side overnight and come back to it the next day for a fresh look. These are some changes you should consider:

    • break long sentences into two or even more sentences, with the main topic in the first subsection, and the supporting elements in those that follow;
    • format sentences to make them easier to read quickly, for example by using paragraphing;
    • reduce unnecessary detail, by substituting broad terms or transferring the detail to definitions and interpretation provisions;
    • remove superfluous words;
    • substitute shorter expressions for those that are unnecessarily long;
    • substitute modern forms of expression for archaic and obscure terms.

We will work with all these techniques in the Modules that follow.

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