Monday, December 18, 2006

Legal drafting: weight of graphic elements

If a graphic element presents the only feasible way to state a requirement in a regulation, does the graphic element have the same legal status as text?

I cannot find any authority that a graphic element has lower legal status than text. I think a graphic element has the same status as legal text. If you want to be cautious, you could specify somewhere in the document that “the graphic elements in this text carry the same weight as the textual elements.”

Here are quotations from three legal-writing experts encouraging the use of graphic elements in legal documents. All three take it for granted, I think, that graphic elements are binding:
  • Use tables, charts, and other graphics—but only if they’re immediately understandable to the ordinary reader. Bryan A. Garner, Securities Disclosure in Plain English 93 (CCH 1999).
  • Often, a chart or graph is the clearest way to present complex information. Thomas R. Haggard, Legal Drafting: Process, Techniques, and Exercises 439 (West 2003).
  • Complex choices are clearer if they appear in if-then tables and other side-by-side arrangements.” Thomas A. Murawski, Writing Readable Regulations 39 (Carolina Acad. Press 1999).

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