Avoid double negatives wherever it is not impossible to do so

by ukcivilservant

The above instruction is taken from the wonderfully quirky Drafting Guidance issued by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel.

The purpose of this short blog is to draw attention to that guidance, and to recommend that those who are interested in the effective use of the English language should read at least parts 1 and 2. (And I hope that this paragraph responds effectively to this injunction in para 1.19 of the guidance: Get to the point as quickly as you can.)

Other memorable instructions include:

  • While it is not our job to spice things up, we are failing our readers if we produce text that is impenetrable or unnecessarily turgid.
  • Legislation should speak firmly but not shout.
  • While brevity may be good, brusqueness is not.

I was also pleased to see that Office policy is to avoid the use of the legislative “shall”.

I read the guidance as it was mentioned in a blog by Joshua Rozenberg about gender-neutral drafting. The guide’s discussion of such drafting is particularly interesting, and topical.

You can read the guidance here.

Martin Stanley
Editor – Understanding Government