Legislative Drafter’s Deskbook
A Practical Guide
By Tobias A. Dorsey
Contributing Author: Clint Brass
The Legislative Drafter’s Deskbook offers practical advice and insight for those engaged in legislative drafting, those more interested in policy than drafting itself, or those interested in reading and interpreting the law. The Legislative Drafter’s Deskbook helps anyone understand why laws are drafted the way they are.
Legislative drafting is — to the extent it is writing at all — the form of writing used for legislative measures, a category that covers original bills and resolutions as well as amendments. Ultimately, legislative drafting is the form of writing used for enacted law. The focus of this book is on legislative drafting for the Congress of the United States, but many, if not most, of the principles described here apply just as well to drafting for other legislatures.
Within the profession, legislative drafting is known simply as drafting, so this book prefers that simpler term throughout. Likewise, this book uses “drafter” to mean one who drafts, “client” to mean one for whom the drafter drafts, and “draft” (as a noun) to mean the text prepared by the drafter for the client.
As forms of writing go, drafting is not freewheeling like poetry, nor showy like rhetoric, nor personal like a novel. Drafting is disciplined, rigorous, and analytical. Done well, drafting can also be creative, elegant, and clever. (Unfortunately, drafting is not always done well.)
Drafting is done by a wide variety of people with a wide variety of qualifications. Some drafters specialize in drafting, some do not. Some are full-time drafters, some not; some are in public service, some not. A drafter may or may not be a lawyer, though for some of the more advanced tasks, being a lawyer may be useful or even required.
The purpose of this book is to provide practical advice on drafting to anyone who does, or may, engage in drafting, and indirectly to provide insight into the drafting process to other interested people. For example, this book is for people who are more interested in policy than in drafting, but want to understand why drafters operate the way they do. It is also for people who are more interested in reading and interpreting the law than in drafting, but want to understand why laws are drafted the way they are. It is hoped that this book will be accessible to beginners while remaining valuable to veterans.
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