The Modern Way to Write a Statute Is to Tell a Story

Journal of the Legal Writing Institute Vol 28 March 2024

42 Pages Posted: 18 Oct 2023

Date Written: October 16, 2023

Abstract

Except for the United States, the English-speaking world has been moving toward writing statutes as stories with characters and plot tensions. British statutes are the most advanced in this respect.

To illustrate the British method, the key statutes in the Mar-a-Lago Indictment are redrafted in this article to resemble the form they would take if recently enacted by Parliament. l compare the statutes and the redrafts side-by-side. And I do the same thing with two sections of the Electoral Count Act, which governs what Congress does on every January 6 following a presidential election year.

The article explains how the British drafting process differs from Congress’s as well as why and how the British have gradually been abandoning statute-writing customs that still prevail in the United States. The article also explains how a writer can tell a story in a statute: sequencing events, blocking to set up a scene, and managing action and dialog.

Keywords: Statute, Legislation, Congress, Parliament, Drafting, Espionage Act, Electoral Count Act

Suggested Citation

Neumann, Richard K., The Modern Way to Write a Statute Is to Tell a Story (October 16, 2023). Journal of the Legal Writing Institute Vol 28 March 2024 , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4603656

Richard K. Neumann (Contact Author)

Hofstra University - School of Law ( email )

121 Hofstra University
Hempstead, NY 11549
United States

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