4. Provisions of acts shall be concise and their content should be as homogeneous as possible. Overly long articles and sentences, unnecessarily convoluted wording and excessive use of abbreviations should be avoided.
The characteristic of good legislative style is the succinct expression of the key ideas of the text. Illustrative clauses, intended to make the text clearer for the reader, may give rise to problems in interpretation.
The text should be internally consistent.
The scope must be respected throughout the act. Rights and obligations must not go beyond those stated to be covered by the act in question, nor extend to other fields.
Rights and obligations must be coherent and not contradictory.
A text that is essentially temporary must not comprise provisions of a permanent nature.
A basic act must not contain detailed provisions, which could be placed in an implementing measure.
Acts should also be consistent with regard to other acts of Community legislation.
In particular, it is necessary to avoid overlap and contradictions with respect to other acts within a given field.
Doubts as to the applicability of other acts must also be avoided (see also Guideline 21).
Sentences should express just one idea, whilst an article must group together a number of ideas having a logical link between them. The text must be split into easily assimilated subdivisions (see table in Guideline 15) following the progression of the reasoning, since an excessively compact block of text is hard for both the eye and the mind to take in. This must not, however, result in sentences being artificially and unduly broken up.
Each article should contain a single provision or rule. Its structure must be as simple as possible.
It is not necessary for interpretation, nor desirable in the interest of clarity, for a single article to cover an entire aspect of the rules laid down in an act. It would be far better to deal with that aspect in several articles grouped together in a single section (see Guideline 15).
Particularly in the initial stages of drafting an act, articles should not be too complex in structure. Drafts and proposals for acts will be subject to deliberations and negotiations throughout the adoption procedure which, in most cases, will result in further additions and refinements. Subsequent amendments of the act, which are often numerous, will also be difficult to insert if the articles are already overloaded.
It is sometimes easier to draft complicated sentences than make the effort of synthesis necessary to achieve clear wording. However, this effort is essential in order to achieve a text which can be easily understood and translated.
The extent to which abbreviations should be used depends on the potential addressees. The abbreviation should be familiar to them or be clearly defined when first used (for example: ‘European Central Bank, hereinafter "ECB"’).