After a policy has been thought through, the next step is to begin crafting the words that will be used. The goal at this stage is not identifying the focus, but expressing it as effectively as possible. There is no special language that is used for writing legislation. Effective drafting requires clear writing. There must be no doubt about the meaning of the words used.
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There are two benefits of clear writing. First, a clear draft is an accurate draft, with a single interpretation. Second, clear writing ensures that if the draft is enacted into law, it carries out the policy of your client in the most effective manner possible.
There are several elements involved in writing clear legislation. First, do not make the draft more complicated than necessary. Distill what must be said and say it in the most straight-forward manner possible.
Do not attempt to use unusual words. If you need to look up a word, you can be certain that readers will need to do so as well. While you should steer clear of idioms and slang, strive to use ordinary sentence structure, grammar, spelling, punctuation and style.
Be brief. If one word will suffice, do not use multiple words. Every single word used in the draft should have a job. Idle words should be removed.
Be consistent. If you utilize a word or meaning in a way that is inconsistent, a distinction can be created where it was not intended.
Your writing should be readable. If the draft is difficult to read, people will be less likely to read it. Information should be placed precisely where it is expected in the draft. This means the most important information should be placed at the beginning, with the least important information placed toward the end.
Reference: Legislative Drafter’s Deskbook, by Tobias Dorsey, Chapter 6–Writing Effectively.
- Congressional Operations Briefing – Capitol Hill Workshop
- Drafting Federal Legislation and Amendments
- Writing for Government and Business: Critical Thinking and Writing
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- Drafting Effective Federal Legislation and Amendments in a Nutshell, Audio Course on CD
- “Congress, the Legislative Process, and the Fundamentals of Lawmaking Series” a Nine-Course series on CD
Legislative Drafter’s Deskbook: A Practical Guide
Citizen’s Handbook to Influencing Elected Officials: A Guide for Citizen Lobbyists and Grassroots Advocates
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