Further Instructions for Practitioner Law

Tip! Authors writing for our Practitioner list should use these instructions alongside the main Instructions for Authors. Please be advised that any style points listed in this document override the main document where a conflict occurs.

General style points for legal texts:


You may wish to include a date on your preface and/or a statement showing when the Law was updated.

The Law is stated as on 1 July 2011


In legal works, full points should not be used for acronyms and abbreviations.

eg not e.g


Law titles do not usually contain artwork, please consult your OUP Editor if you wish to include any artwork (this includes photos, line drawings, graphs, maps.)

Presentation and style for practitioner works

Accessibility and structural devices

Practitioner texts are designed for day-to-day use by practising lawyers and should make the location and understanding of information as easy as possible.

It is rare for a complete chapter of a practitioner work, let alone the whole book, to be read from beginning to end. It is important that lawyers are able to quickly find the point of access they need. To support this you should:

  • Use a clear and logical structure for the book as a whole and apply this to each chapter and section.
  • Use an introduction and conclusion within each chapter to outline the approach taken and the key points discussed.
  • Use a large number of succinct headings (at least one per page on average), following a clear and consistent hierarchy.
  • Supply a ‘mini table of contents’ at the start of each chapter made up of the headings used in that chapter.
  • Use paragraph numbering throughout.
  • Cross-reference to specific paragraph numbers.
  • Use numbered lists, bullet points, checklists, flow diagrams, and precedents, where appropriate, to aid understanding.

Tip! Guidance on heading structure, paragraph numbering, and cross-referencing can be found within subsections of Components of Your Manuscript.

Unfolding the argument

To help the reader to interpret the text you should adopt the following approach when writing:

  • Keep chapters short and self-contained—ideally between 10 and 25 pages.
  • Keep paragraphs short—ideally no more than 15 lines.
  • Use individual paragraphs to deal with one idea or issue.
  • Do not bury key points in the middle of paragraphs.
  • Use short, clear sentences.
  • Avoid using obscure or ‘home-made’ abbreviations. If unfamiliar abbreviations are needed, create an abbreviations list for the prelim pages of the book. See Lists of Abbreviations for Legal Materials for a list of standard abbreviations used.
  • Avoid attaching special definitions to words or terms; if unfamiliar terms are needed, create a separate glossary for the book.

Types of content to avoid

To make sure your content is ‘practitioner friendly’ remember the following points about discussion of the theory, history, or social context of the law:

  • Practitioners are only interested in this when it directly impacts understanding, interpretation, or practice.
  • If you do include it, ensure it is concise and clearly linked to the discussion of law and practice.
  • Only include proposals for law reform and questions of policy if they are currently in the process of implementation and will have a real effect on clients.
  • Where possible use separate chapters to address proposals for law reform so they cannot be confused with the current state of the law.

Paragraph numbering

Some disciplines also require heading numbering; please ask your OUP Editor if in doubt about what headings and numbering to use.

Most law practitioner titles use paragraph numbering, which offers several advantages for cross-references, indexes, and legal tables:

  • Target locations are more specific and accurate than page numbers
  • Paragraph numbers provide the best point of reference for updating materials or on companion websites
  • Target locations are not reliant on the pagination of the typeset book for readers using electronic reading devices.

Apply paragraph numbering using the following guidance:

  • Use decimal numbering
  • Apply paragraph numbers to grammatical paragraphs—those distinguished by sense rather than by layout on the page
  • Apply paragraph numbering as you write, to make it easier and to save time.

Tip! Microsoft Word has an automatic numbering function, which you can use to apply paragraph numbers.

Here is an example:

12.02 A paragraph may summarize the decision of a particular case and then include a brief quotation from the judgment before continuing with that decision. This continued text would not receive a new paragraph number.

12.03 However, the next paragraph that goes on to discuss the impact of a different case would receive a new paragraph number.

12.04 The following paragraph, providing a summary of the impact of both these cases, would also receive a new paragraph number.