Bill Drafting: Using Shall Carefully for Clearer Laws

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They are collaborative, interactive and easy to use. Most webinars will be recorded for those who are unable to attend the live meeting.

This hour-long webinar for legislative drafters and legislative editors discusses using the word “shall” in drafting legislation. The webinar covered issues such as:

  • The false imperative. The imperative mood is often the correct mood for statutes, but sometimes statutory provisions are not meant to command. The false imperative appears to command or impose a duty, but does not.
  • The “wrong actor” problem. Many statutes that are meant to impose a duty actually impose the duty on the wrong actor.
  • “Shall have been.” Is this phrase ever appropriate in statutory language?
  • The passive voice. The passive voice doesn’t necessarily involve “shall,” but in statutes it often does.

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The Legal Services Staff Section (LSSS) would like to thank the NCSL Foundation for State Legislatures for providing an e-learning grant to produce this webinar.


  • Becky Tradewell is a managing attorney at the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau and has been a drafter there since 1985.  She has conducted seminars for her colleagues, legislators, and legislative staff on subjects that include the budget process and understanding appropriations. Becky also helps train new drafters.

System Requirements

PC-based attendeesr required: Windows® 8, 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server
Mac®-based attendees required: Mac OS® X 10.6 or newer<
Mobile attendees required: iPhone®, iPad®, Android™ phone or Android tablet