The Drafters' Dance : The complexity of drafting legislation and the limitations of 'Plain Language' and 'Good Law' initiatives

Webb, Thomas Edward and Geyer, Robert Ralph (2020) The Drafters' Dance : The complexity of drafting legislation and the limitations of 'Plain Language' and 'Good Law' initiatives. Statute Law Review, 41 (2). 129–158. ISSN 0144-3593

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Can we provide legislative drafters with tools to simplify and clarify legislation, and make it more accessible? In the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and EU, through strategies such as the ‘Plain Language’ and ‘Good Law’ (PL/GL) initiatives, it is claimed that the answer is ‘yes’. Though many of the normative intentions underlying such initiatives are commendable, we argue that the pursuit of legislative and legal simplicity, clarity, and accessibility ignores the distinctly ‘complicated’ and ‘complex’ role of legislation and legislative drafters. This leads to a range of contradictory and paradoxical outcomes that undermine these goals. Following a review of the role of legislative drafters and PL/GL initiatives, we use a complexity tool, the Stacey Diagram, to demonstrate and visualise the inherent tensions in the PL/GL position. We show how legislative drafters negotiate their complex environment in a much more subtle, human way than is commonly recognised in PL/GL discourse.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Statute Law Review
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This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Statute Law Review following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version Thomas E Webb, Robert Geyer, The Drafters’ Dance: The Complexity of Drafting Legislation and the Limitations of ‘Plain Language’ and ‘Good Law’ Initiatives, Statute Law Review, 41(2) , hmz008, is available online at:
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? complexity theory legislationlegislation and policylawlegal theorysystems theoryparliamentplain languagegood lawgeneral medicinelaw ??
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20 May 2019 12:15
Last Modified:
15 Jul 2024 18:05