We have a new website go to gov.scot

Plain Language and Legislation



The sheer volume of works commenting on plain language and legislation can be overwhelming. The Journal of the Statute Law Society, the Statute Law Review, has recently provided a particularly rich source of articles for those with an interest in plain language drafting. The amount of material on the subject perhaps indicates that it may be more realistic to aim for continuous improvement in the style of legislation than to embark on a quest for the perfect drafting style, not least because of the need for legislative drafters to adapt and innovate as times change and language evolves.

This booklet adds to the mountain of information which is available. The following sources should assist anyone searching for a greater understanding of the relationship between plain language and legislation.


Michèle M Asprey, Plain Language for Lawyers, 3rd edition, The Federation Press, 2003

Peter Butt & Richard Castle, Modern Legal Drafting: A Guide to Using Clearer Language, Cambridge University Press, 2001

Craies on Legislation, 8th edition, ed. Daniel Greenberg, Sweet & Maxwell, 2004, Chapter 8

Martin Cutts, Lucid Law, 2nd edition, Plain Language Commission, 2000

Sir Ernest Gowers, The Complete Plain Words, Penguin, 1987


Report by the Committee appointed by the Lord President of the Council, chaired by Rt. Hon Sir (later Lord) David Renton (The Renton Committee), The Preparation of Legislation, Cmnd. 6033, HMSO, London, 1975

Inland Revenue, Tax Law Rewrite: The Way Forward, Consultative Document, London, 1996

Report of the Hansard Society Commission on the Legislative Process chaired the Lord Rippon of Hexham, Making the Law, Hansard Society, London, 1992

The Law Reform Commission (Ireland), Report on Statutory Drafting and Interpretation: Plain Language and the Law, LRC 61 - 2000, Dublin, 2000 (and preceding consultation paper, LRC - CP14 , Dublin, 1999)

Law Reform Commission of Victoria, Plain English and the Law, Report No. 9, Melbourne, 1987

Law Reform Commission of Victoria, Access to the Law: The Structure and Format of Legislation, Report No. 33, Melbourne, 1990


Francis Bennion, If It's Not Broke Don't Fix It: A Review of the New Zealand Law Commission's Proposals on the Format of Legislation, Vol. 15, No.3, 1994

Duncan Berry, Legislative Drafting: Could our Statutes be Simpler?, Vol. 8, No. 2, 1987

Mr Justice Brooke, The Role of the Law Commission in Simplifying Statute Law, Vol. 16, No. 1, 1995

Peter Butt, Modern Legal Drafting, Vol. 23, No. 1, 2002

Martin Cutts, Plain English in the law, Vol. 17, No. 1, 1996

Edward Donelan, Recent developments in statute law revision in Ireland, Vol. 22, No. 1, 2001

Editorial, Clarity of the Law Again, Vol. 14, No. 1, 1993

Editorial, Lucid law II, Vol. 22, No. 1, 2001

George Engle, "Bills are made to pass as razors are made to sell": practical constraints in the preparation of legislation, Vol. 4, No. 1, 1983

R. F. V. Heuston, Lord Chancellors and Statute Law Reform, Vol. 9, No. 3, 1988

The Rt Hon, The Lord Hope of Craighead, What a Second Chamber Can Do for Legislative Scrutiny, Vol. 25, No. 1, 2004

Brian Hunt, Plain Language in Legislative Drafting: An Achievable Objective or a Laudable Ideal?, Vol. 24, No .1, 2003

Brian Hunt, Plain Language in Legislative Drafting: Is it Really the Answer?, Vol. 23, No. 1, 2002

The Rt Hon. Sir Patrick Mayhew, Can Legislation Ever be Simple, Clear and Certain?, Vol. 11, No. 1, 1990

John McCluskie, New Approaches to UK Legislative Drafting: The View from Scotland, Vol. 25, No. 2, 2004

Timothy Millett, The House of Lords as a Re-Writing Chamber, Vol. 9, No. 2, 1988

The Hon. Mr Justice Nazareth, Legislative Drafting: Could our Statutes be Simpler?, Vol. 8, No. 2, 1987

Sheriff C. G. B. Nicholson, Codification of Scots Law: A Way Ahead, or a Blind Alley?, Vol. 8, No. 3, 1997

The Rt Hon. Lord Renton, Current Drafting Practices and Problems in the United Kingdom, Vol. 11, No. 1, 1990

Alec Samuels, Consolidation: A Plea, Vol. 26, No. 1, 2005

Alec Samuels, Statements of purpose and principle in British statutes, Vol. 19, No. 1, 1998

Jack Stark, Should the Main Goal of Statutory Drafting Be Accuracy or Clarity?, Vol. 15, No. 3, 1994

Ruth Sullivan, Some Implications of Plain Language Drafting, Vol. 22, No. 3, 2001

Euan Sutherland, Clearer Drafting and the Timeshare Act 1992: A Response from Parliamentary Counsel to Mr Cutts, Vol. 14, No. 3, 1993

Edwin Tanner, Clear, Simple and Precise Legislative Drafting: Australian Guidelines Explicated Using an EC Directive, Vol. 25, No. 3, 2004

Richard Thomas, Plain English and the Law, Vol. 6, No. 3, 1985

Ian M. L. Turnbull, Clear Legislative Drafting: New Approaches in Australia, Vol. 11, No. 3, 1990

Ian M. L. Turnbull, Legislative drafting in plain language and statements of general principle, Vol. 18, No. 1, 1997

Ian M. L. Turnbull, Problems of Legislative Drafting, Vol. 7, No. 2, 1986


Justice R I Barrett, A judicial response to plain language, Clarity, No. 49, May 2003

Duncan Berry, Audience Analysis in the Legislative Drafting Process, The Loophole, Commonwealth Association of Legislative Counsel, June 2000

Martin Cutts, Unspeakable Acts? Clarifying the Language and Typography of an Act of Parliament, Words at Work, Stockport, 1993

Barbro Ehrenberg-Sundin, Plain language in Sweden, the results after 30 years, Speech given at plain language conference, Lenguaje Ciudadano, Mexico, 2004, available at www.plainlanguage.gov

David C. Elliott, Constitutions in a Modern Setting - The Language of the Practice of Law, a paper presented at Lawasia Conference, Hong Kong, September 1989, available at www.davidelliott.ca

Malcolm Gammie, Legislation for Business: Is it Fit For Public Consumption?, Fiscal Studies, vol. 15, no. 3, 1994

Nick Horn, A Dainty Dish to Set before the King: Plain Language and Legislation, presented to the Fourth Biennial Conference of the PLAIN Language Association International, September 2002 (available at www.plainlanguagenetwork.org)

Nick Horn, Legislative Drafting in Australia, New Zealand and Ontario: Note on an informal survey, The Loophole, Commonwealth Association of Legislative Counsel, March 2005

David Hull, Drafters' Devils, The Loophole, Commonwealth Association of Legislative Counsel, June 2000

John Mark Keyes, The democratic challenge to drafting readable laws, Clarity, No. 51, May 2004

Joseph Kimble, Answering the Critics of Plain Language, The Scribes Journal of Legal Writing, 1994-95 (available at www.plainlanguagenetwork.org)

Joseph Kimble, The Great Myth That Plain Language Is Not Precise, The Scribes Journal of Legal Writing, 1998-2000 (available at www.plainlanguagenetwork.org)

Hilary Penfold, When words aren't enough: Graphics and other innovations in legislative drafting, Paper for Language and the Law Conference, university of Texas, 2001, available at www.opc.gov.au

Ruth Sullivan, The Promise of Plain Language Drafting, 47 McGill Law Journal 97, 2001

Peter Tiersma, The Plain English Movement, available at www.languageandlaw.org


Hawaii Legislative Drafting Manual, 9th edition, 1996, available at www.hawaii.gov/lrb

Interinstitutional agreement on common guidelines for the quality of drafting of Community legislation (OJ C. 73/01, 17.3.1999)

Joint Practical Guide of the European Parliament, The Council and the Commission for persons involved in the drafting of legislation within the Community institutions, 2003

Maine Legislative Drafting Manual, 1st edition, 1990, revised through 2004, available at www.maine.gov

Ministry of Justice (Sweden), The Swedish Government promotes clear drafting, Stockholm, 2004

The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, Drafting Rules for Uniform or Model Acts, Chicago, 2003

Office of the Parliamentary Counsel (Australia), Plain English Manual, available at www.opc.gov.au


Clarity: www.clarity-international.net

The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, www.nccusl.org

Office of the Parliamentary Counsel (Australia): www.opc.gov.au

Parliamentary Counsel Office (New Zealand): www.pco.parliament.govt.nz

Parliamentary Counsel Office ( UK) : www.parliamentary-counsel.gov.uk

Plain English Campaign: www.plainenglish.co.uk

Plain Language Association International: www.plainlanguagenetwork.org

Plain Language Commission: www.clearest.co.uk

Statute Law Review: http://slr.oupjournals.org/

US Government: www.plainlanguage.gov