Legislative Section Headings: Drafting Techniques, Plain Language, and Redundancy
Author: Horn, Nick
Source: Statute Law Review, Volume 32, Number 3, 5 October 2011 , pp. 186-208(23)
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Abstract:How do legislative section headings work? They are presumed to help readers of legislation find what they need to know faster, and understand it more easily when they find it. This paper sets out some rules and techniques that drafters can use to maximize the (presumed) effectiveness of section headings. The distinction between the effect of section headings on access to the law by primary users, and their effector lack of iton the meaning of the law for official interpreters, is questioned. The empirical evidence, such as it is, for the effectiveness of section headings for primary users is described. Three modes of operation are distinguished: vertical (descriptive), horizontal (structural), and a third dimension in which section headings are framed as questions. In the horizontal mode, one particular type of section heading, the divided heading, is discussed in detail.The redundancy involved in section headings and other devices used to assist primary users to access and understand legislation is discussed and defended. The legal or interpretative effect of section headings is briefly outlined and Professor Ruth Sullivan's approach to interpretation based on indications of meaning, which can be proved in evidence rather than taken on judicial notice, is described and related to the discussion of section headings.
Document Type: Research article
Publication date: 2011-10-05
- The principal objectives of the Review are to provide a vehicle for the consideration of the legislative process, the use of legislation as an instrument of public policy and of the drafting and interpretation of legislation. The Review, which was first established in 1980, is the only journal of its kind within the Commonwealth. It is of particular value to lawyers in both private practice and in public service, and to academics, both lawyers and political scientists, who write and teach within the field of legislation.