McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli outside the California State Capitol

One of the issues that is often discussed in legislative drafting is how to make legislation more readable. In other words, how to make the text of legislative measures easier to understand by those who are reading it, those who are subject to the law, or those who need to administer or even interpret the legislation.

Some suggestions provided to students in Athabasca University’s graduate diploma in legislative drafting include providing overviews, following standard writing practices, using standardized language, and even using diagrams or similar modes of communicating information.

In terms of providing overviews, some drafters argue that it’s easier for readers to understand the relationship between statutory provisions and detailed requirements of a series of rules if the readers have, basically, a framework for what is coming. A drafter can achieve this by including in the statutory scheme a purpose clause – better known as a statement of legislative intent in California – headings, or section notes.

Legislative drafters also use several standard writing guidelines to present the text of legislation, such as using the present tense of verbs, using the active voice. Drafters should also avoid the uses of provisos that create too many exceptions or qualifications to a general legal rule.

The other important guideline for making legislation more readable is to use standard language that’s known to the general public and that’s in common usage. Legislative drafters should generally avoid Latin words, other forms of legalese, and, for lack of a better term, old words. All of the modern drafting standards are intended to assist readers of legislative measures once they’re implemented by drafters of these measures.

You can find the full transcript of today’s audio here.