LGST 551
Introduction to Legislative Drafting (OCW)


LGST 551
Introduction to Legislative Drafting (OCW)

Study Materials

Module 2: Section 5

Section Preview

In this Module so far you have been looking at techniques for producing sound legislative sentences which clearly communicate their requirements to users. You will have noticed already a number of cases where you need to pay careful attention to syntax or grammar to avoid obscurity or ambiguity.  In this Section, we concentrate on these cases. 

In English it is easy to compose meaningful sentences that do not convey their intended meaning. In drafting legislative sentences, we need to be particularly careful about this to ensure that users cannot find different meanings from the one we set out to produce.

English language usage contributes to a number of drafting pitfalls.  Even experienced legislative counsel, working under pressure, are occasionally caught by them.  In this Section, we identify the most common ones and work out ways you can avoid them.  You have already come across some of them in earlier Sections of this Module.

Section Objectives

By the end of this Section, you should be able to do the following:

  • detect the main kinds of drafting errors in connection with legislative syntax and expression;
  • compose simple legislative sentences that are unambiguous and free from common errors of expression.

Section Approach

This Section is divided into three subsections, each of which is subdivided, as follows:

  1. Subjects
    • imprecise linking
    • ambiguous modifying
    • imprecise pronouns
  2. Verbs
    • imprecise linking
    • ambiguous modifying
    • imprecise pronouns
  3. Modifiers
    • defective sentence modifications
    • ambiguous prepositions
    • uncertain conjunctions

Each subsection examines how drafting in the way indicated can lead to ambiguity or lack of clarity.

Studying this Section

This is a demanding section, in part, because we cover a wide range of cases and in part, because the cases examined have few thematic links with what comes before or afterwards in the text.  For that reason, this Section is not structured in the form of Essential Questions. 

You should consider each of the cases in the subdivisions separately.  Be fully aware of the nature of the problem first and then work out the ways of dealing with it.  A considerable number of exercises have been included for the purpose; these are designed mainly to allow you to offer a specific solution to a problem illustrated in the text.  In studying this Section, you will gain most from completing the exercises and evaluating your answer with the one suggested, before you move to the next case.  

Reinforce your understanding by going over the material on a particular case more than once.  Your aim is to discover how the difficulty in question can arise and how it can be avoided.

You may find it helpful to develop a checklist of the cases discussed and the methods of dealing with them.