LGST 553
Legislative Structure, Style and Limits (OCW)


LGST 553
Legislative Structure, Style and Limits (OCW)

Study Materials

Module 2: Section 1

Section Preview

How can we develop good legislative style?

In LGST 551, Module 2, we concentrated on legislative syntax - how legislative sentences should be composed consistently with prevailing conventions on grammar and punctuation. In this Section, we deal with legislative style - how legislation should be written so that it expresses its subject matter as effectively as possible.

Though syntax and style are independent concepts, in drafting we cannot treat them separately. How a sentence is composed and structured may significantly affect how well it expresses the subject matter. Legislative counsel make most of their decisions about syntax and style together, as part of the same process.

Section Objectives

By the end of this Section, you should have laid the foundations for developing a personal drafting style within the conventions prevailing in your jurisdiction, and in particular, you should be able to do the following:

  • apply a range of stylistic devices in composing legislation that will contribute to its effectiveness and clarity;
  • put into effect the main practices that lead to a plain language style of drafting;
  • follow a gender-neutral style of drafting.

Essential Questions

This Section is divided into four subsections organised in terms of a series of questions:

    • What do we mean by good legislative style?
    • How do we decide what is good style?
    • How are style standards set for legislative counsel?
    • Why is style important?
    • What style practices get in the way of communication?
    • What is the aim of the plain language style?
    • How can we improve communication?
    • How can we improve clarity?
    • How can we make legislation more readable?
    • How can we make legislation more concise?
    • How can we make legislation more complete?
    • How can we make legislation more consistent?
    • How can we make legislation certain?
    • How can we draft in gender-neutral terms?
    • Can we split infinitives?
    • Can we end a sentence with a preposition?
    • Can we begin a sentence with “And” or “But”?

This section also includes two appendices:

Appendix 1: Simple Words and Expressions

Appendix 2: Commonly Confused Words

Studying this Section

This is a long Section that will require several study sessions. Many of the aims of the techniques described are likely to be familiar to you from LGST 551. The Section is designed to identify and prevent poor drafting practices that get in the way of effectively expressed legislation. Some of these you should have already noted. But some of the devices described may be new, and will require careful thought. You will find that easier by reading Subsection 1 to remind yourself of drafting practices that make legislative expression less effective.

You are asked to consider a large number of techniques; these are grouped by their contribution to the various objectives that legislation should achieve. This is a little artificial, though it breaks this Section into manageable subsections for the purposes of study. In case you still find difficulty in keeping track of the wide range of devices referred to, an outline chart is set out at the beginning of Subsection 2 to help you keep track of your progress. But we also suggest that you create a checklist, as you proceed, of the particular items considered under each of the heads. This should be useful for later reference, as well as facilitating your study.

In Subsection 3, we look at gender-neutral drafting to show how it can be put into effect if that is consistent with the practice in your jurisdiction. Gender-neutral drafting is becoming well-established and a good legislative counsel should know how it is done.

Skip Table of contentsSkip NavigationSkip Administration