Writing Guidelines

Writing Guidelines for Authors


The Encyclopedia of Law Project aims to cover the legal system of a good part of the countries all over the world, as well as from some of the world’s leading international organizations. If you are not a member of the law community, but a reader who wants to suggest an entry, please contact us.

Project Scope

The Encyclopedia of Law is compiled in order to provide the reader with a supported reference tool that discusses relevant legal and tax topics. It is a reference work that contains over 200.000 entries alphabetically arranged for straightforward and convenient use by scholars, legal professionals and general readers alike. The entries will range from original research to synopses of existing scholarship. This will by no means be an exhaustive list associated with law and tax; however, it will include some of the most popular phrases, terms, and words used in current everyday communications on the those topics.

Contributions are made by experts in various fields and will include a true evaluation and summary of specific resources pertinent to law.

Overview of the Editorial Peer Review Process

All submissions to the Encyclopedia of Law will go through a rapid initial check by the Area Editor or the in-house editorial team before being published with the status “This Entry has not yet been peer-reviewed”. The Area Editor will check the appropriateness of the entry (including content, quality, tone and format), ensure it is intelligible and that it is written in good English.

As an author, you may also identify 3 potential reviewers. We can provide other reviewers. We feel that, in some specialized areas, our Editorial Board or our Area Editor may not know the field as well as the author, and therefore may not recognise perfectly valid referee names and, in turn, may suggest referees who are actually less suitable in terms of their knowledge of the field in question. Please avoid suggesting those you have collaborated with in the past 5 years or those from your own institution. They should ideally have authored at least one article in the field as the lead author. Please also try to ensure an international breadth to your choices.

We ask reviewers to inform us whether the work seems sound, by selecting one of three statuses: ‘Approved’ (similar to approved or minor revisions), ‘Approved with Reservations’ (similar to major revisions) or ‘Not Approved’ (similar to reject). We will also ask the reviewers for more detailed comments to support the status they have provided. In general, reviewer annotations may be published in the Encyclopedia, together with the names of the reviewers and their affiliations, if agreement is reached.

You are strongly encouraged to make any amendments to your entry or essay suggested by the reviewer as you deem appropriate. You may also discuss the reviewer comments openly with the reviewers. All versions of your entry or essay will be accessible and can be cited separately, but the latest version will be displayed as the default on the Encyclopedia. When you submit a new version of an entry or essay, we also ask you to send us a short summary of the changes that have been made compared with the previous published version, which we will publish at the top of the new version so that readers do not need to re-read the whole article to know what has been changed. Anything requested by the reviewers that you have chosen not to address should be explained as responses directly against the reviewer reports using the Comment tool.

Once your article receives two Approved statuses, or two Approved with Reservations statuses and one Approved status, your article will be indexed and the status of your entry may change to ‘Indexed’.

The Encyclopedia of Law is often a refereed publication

Contributions reprinted from other sources, and invited contributions (including introductions to other entries) will not be normally sent out for review.

All other contributions in the entries, articles and essays will be normally sent out for one of the peer review systems the Encyclopedia employs.

Submission Requirements

Authors are responsible for obtaining any necessary written permission for use of copyrighted material contained within their submission.

All manuscripts submitted to the Encyclopedia should be original and not be under consideration for another publication.


The Encyclopedia of Law is geared for a wide audience seeking information on a multitude of topics related to law and tax. This resource will interest students, researcher, school teachers, professors, policy makers, and anyone considering those topics. Therefore, it is very important for entries to be clear, list important facts, follow standards for appropriate classification, avoid the use of jargon, observe copyrighted materials with appropriate citations, keep the focus on the subject, and written objectively.

Table of Contents

In order to present the subject matter clearly and to show the relative weight of the different topics, it is critical that authors try to follow the main table of contents established in each topic and volume, as a detailed outline, representing verbatim all of the headings used in the text of their writings. As a supplementary endeavor, authors can follow the other tables of contents provided or created their own table of contents.

General Introduction

The main text of a large topic always begins with a General Introduction. The General Background is one part of this introduction in which some general information is given.

Selected Bibliography

A Selected Bibliography should contain the most relevant books and articles that are important for further reading. It should be a selected bibliography, not an exhaustive list of all works available in the field of law. The preferred bibliography is one in which all entries are divided in books and articles and, if necessary, subdivided by publication language.

Preparing the Text of the Entry

When preparing a manuscript for an entry of the Encyclopedia, we ask authors take account that their contribution, being very valuable for us, it should be only one element of a whole set, for which some recommendations and conventions are provided. We ask authors to give care with regard to consistency and uniformity in order to ensure that the reader has easy access and reference
to the information presented in the Project. When each major topic or volume has the same format and the same treatment of editorial details, the reader knows what to expect and can easily find needed information.


If necessary, it is the responsibility of the author to obtain written permission for quotations from unpublished material and for all quotations in excess of 250 words in one extract, or 500 words in total, from any work still in copyright. Authors are to keep quoted material to a minimum.

For more information, see Quotations Fair Use in the Encyclopedia.

Updating and Expanding your Entry

In order to have a reliable and accurate reference work, annual updates are necessary. As an online wiki, the Encyclopedia of Law is ideally suited to updating and expanding content. Additional entries can be created and additional material can be incorporated.

Guidelines for contributing new work to the Encyclopedia

  • If there is an article that resembles your article, improve the existing page.
  • Add a link from another article to your article to develop interconnections between entries. Do not create “dead-end entries”. These are pages without links to other Encyclopedia of Law entries.
  • Once entries are created they are live, and any links to them will work. When users click their way to an empty entry, they have wasted their time. Only create entries when you have fairly complete and accurate content to put into them.


Use the following categories which designate the state an article is in:

  • {{Icomplete}} The Incomplete (Stub) categorizes the page as incomplete and in need of editing and expansion.
  • {{Draft}}: Put this at the top of the page. All pages added are scanned by search engines. The Draft notice at the top of every page will warn others that this is a work in progress, that the information may be incorrect, and may also warn others not to edit it until you are finished working on it.
  • {{Copyedit}}: Put this at the bottom of the page. Copyedit designates this article as in need of work, usually general overview and editing. It marks it as fairly complete but needing review.


  • All headings must also be in Title Case. For example, use “Civil Law System” not “Civil law system.”
  • They should also follow the Dr. Grammar rules regarding capitalization thus:”In titles, capitalize the first word, the last word, and all words in between except articles (a, an, and the), prepositions under five letters (in, of, to), and coordinating conjunctions (and, but). These rules apply to titles of long, short, and partial works as well as your own papers” (Anson, Schwegler, and Muth. The Longman Writer’s Companion 240)
  • Titles are action or task-oriented whenever possible. So, “Using the Links Manager” is preferred to “The Links Manager” for example. What search words will a user use when looking for the information?
  • Titles shall not have leading or trailing spaces, or unnecessary spaces in between words. Try to avoid using symbols such as “-“, “#”, “?” and “+”.
  • Shorter titles are better.
  • Please avoid using prepositions in titles, as far as possible.
  • In case of doubt regarding the suitability of a name, ask for suggestions.


External Links

External links are to used judiciously as they can be notoriously difficult to maintain and verify. Use your best judgment but consider the following when choosing to include an external link on the Encyclopedia of Law:

  • The External site is an authority in the field.
  • The external site has a long history and is not expected to change domain names or become inactive or closed down.
  • A good majority of the overall content on the site is representative of law or tax (not a one-off article).
  • The content is timeless.
  • The site does not sell, promote, or market products or services inconsistent with the Encyclopedia GPL Policy.
  • The majority of the site and its content is dedicated to original content not advertising or unoriginal content.
  • There is no alternative to creating similar original content within the Encyclopedia.
  • External links are listed in the “More Resources” section at the bottom of Encyclopedia entries. If they are included within the content, application of the above qualifications becomes even more stringent.

All links in violation of these terms shall be removed.

Encyclopedia of Law Categories

Each article within the Encyclopedia of Law is categorized with specific categories, in general following a classification system. Please use one or more of the categories listed and do not add any new categories without approval from the Encyclopedia of Law Team as a lot of work has gone into developing these categories.

Category pages are created automatically and customized by the Encyclopedia of Law Team to include related and subcategories.

Adding a New Category

Categories in the Encyclopedia of Law are added by the senior members of the Encyclopedia of Law Team and reflect the table of contents of the Project.


Some tags makes sense. Use your best judgment.

Consider the Audience. Create tags based upon keywords and search terms, words that will help the user find the information they need. If the information is basic, use the terms “Beginner” or “Basic” in the category name, as well as “Advanced” if necessary.

Using the “Talk” pages

Do you see something that is perhaps incorrect, or needs clarification? The best way to make mention of any issues is to use the DISCUSSION function. Please refrain from adding your comments directly onto the ARTICLE page. At the top of every page is a DISCUSSION tab. This is the place to make your comments, suggestions, and such. Thank you!

Leaving Messages About the Article: To leave a message regarding the article, click the Discussion tab of that article and post your message and sign it (see below).
Leaving Messages for Users: Leave a message for a user by editing the User:Talk page associated with the user.

Rules of thumb

1. Write your Introduction LAST. Your paper will, basically, consist of three parts: an Introduction, an Argument, and a Conclusion – in that order. It would, obviously, be silly to begin writing your Conclusion first, before you know exactly what you are going to say. It is equally silly to write your Introduction first. You must know where your argument is going in order to write a decent Introduction, because the function of the Introduction is to tell the reader what’s coming. Once you know what your argument is going to be, it is very easy to write an Introduction; before you know what your argument is going to be, it is virtually impossible to do so.

2. Use topic sentences. Each paragraph in your paper should make one point, and each paragraph should begin with a declarative sentence stating that point. These “topic sentences” are enormously important. Read your paper over, frequently, as I am going to: reading only the first sentence in each paragraph. Ask yourself: If you knew nothing about this subject matter, would this reading of the paper, topic sentence by topic sentence with nothing else, have made sense to you? If the answer is “no,” you’re not finished revising.

3. Eliminate the passive voice from your entry.

Do not say “As the international law grew, new treaties were found,” say “As the international law grew, people found new treaties.”

Do not say “The 5-step test for determining likelihood of confusion under the Lanham Act was crafted by the court”; tell the reader who crafted it (“The Eighth Circuit crafted the 5-step test for determining likelihood of confusion under the Lanham Act”).

Do not say “Where there is no general jurisdiction, the possibility of specific jurisdiction must be examined,” say “Where there is no general jurisdiction, the court must examine the possibility of specific jurisdiction.”

Do not say “The modern framework for analyzing a question of personal jurisdiction was developed in International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310 (1945), say “The Supreme Court developed the modern framework for analyzing questions of personal jurisdiction in International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310 (1945).”

Always write so that the reader can tell who the actor is who is performing the action described in your sentences.

You may, if you wish, treat this as just another arbitrary grammatical rule to be followed by rote – like “don’t end a sentence with a preposition,” or “don’t split infinitives.” In other words: Just do it.

It is, however, not an arbitrary rule at all; rewriting your sentences to eliminate uses of the passive voice will help you think. Here’s an example from a draft paper I received a while ago:

“Despite the radio broadcasters’ argument that they made little profit on broadcasts, ASCAP was authorized to demand payment for the broadcast of copyrighted works.”

Interesting – but who “authorized” ASCAP to do that? Congress? Where? In a statute? What statute? Or was it a court? Some administrative agency? The New York City Council? As it turns out, that’s a very difficult, and a very interesting and important, question. I would wager that the author of this sentence didn’t know the answer, and s/he was hiding behind the passive voice to obscure that lack of knowledge.

We all do this, all the time, and we shouldn’t; eliminating the passive voice from our writing will help us avoid it.

4. Quote first; explain later. The actual words used in the statutes or the opinions under discussion always matter. Do not tell me what you think a statutory section means until you have given me the actual language in the statute; do not tell me what you think a court meant until you first tell me what it said. If the statutory language (or court’s opinion) is clear, then it’s clear and nothing more need be said. If it needs explanation and interpretation (as it almost always does), explain and interpret – after you tell me what the words are that you are explaining and interpreting. I don’t want to know your opinion about the statute or the case – I want to know (a) what it says, and (b) what it means.

5. Do not thump on the table. Do not ever say “It is clear that . . . .,” or “it is obvious that.” Do not use the words “clearly,” or “obviously,” or “undoubtedly,” as in “the statute clearly authorizes . . . .,” or “the Feist opinion obviously changes copyright law in important ways.” If it is clear, or obvious, or free from doubt, then there if no need to say that – the reader will already see it because you have made it clear. Ninety-nine times out of 100, you use these words or phrases as crutches, to obscure the fact that you have not made something clear, or obvious, when you should have.

6. Use parallel structure. If you are talking about general and specific jurisdiction, and one paragraph begins, “In order for there to be general jurisdiction, the defendant must have . . . .,” then begin the next paragraph about the parallel topic (specific jurisdiction) the same way: “In order for there to be specific jurisdiction, the defendant must have . . .” Make it simple.

7. Avoid unnecessary introductory and transition words. Words or phrases like “Moreover,” “In addition,” “Furthermore,” “As such,” “Notwithstanding,” are sometimes useful, but rarely; most of the time they get people into trouble. They tend to be inserted when the logical transition between your sentences makes no sense; if you have two sentences that do not belong together, throwing in an “In addition” at the beginning of the second sentence will not help. Use these devices very sparingly.

8. Watch out for “as explained below” and “as explained above.” These are signals that your work is not yet properly organized. What is a reader supposed to do when he/she encounters “as explained below” in a paper? Stop reading and go “below” to wherever you explain what needs to be explained? If something needs to be explained now, explain it now. Always remember: readers read from left to right; do not make the reader’s understanding of something depend on something that you say later.

9. Read your work aloud. Writing, Lawrence Sterne wrote (in his novel Tristram Shandy), is conversation. He was correct. If your paper, or outline, or memo, or letter, or brief, or . . . does not make any sense to a listener, chances are very good that it won’t make any sense to a reader. At the very least, ask someone who knows nothing about your topic to read through what you have written; if your friend/spouse/partner/cousin can’t make heads or tails out of what you’ve written, chances are very good that I won’t be able to either.

Further Reading

Carole Slade and Robert Perrin’s Form and Style (13th edn, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2008), provides an excellent overview of MLA and Chicago styles.

i.) Chicago style (Documentary Note; Humanities)
The Chicago Manual of Style (14th edition, Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1993), “Documentation 1” style, pp.487-635. See also Kate Turabian, rev. John Grossman and Alice Bennett, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (6th edition, Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1996); and Slade and Perrin, ch.7.

ii.) MLA style (Works Cited)
The MLA Style Manual, comp. Joseph Gibaldi (2nd edition, New York: Modern Language Association, 1998). See also MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, comp. Joseph Gibaldi (6th edition, New York: Modern Language Association, 2003); and Slade and Perrin, ch. 8.

iii.) Harvard style (Author-Date; Name Year)
The Chicago Manual of Style (as above), “Documentation 2” style, pp.637-699, and in Scientific Style and Format (6th edition, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), ch.30, pp.617-76. See also Kate Turabian, rev. John Grossman and Alice Bennett, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (6th edition, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996); and Slade, ch. 9.

World Encyclopedia of Law: International and Comparative law

The Project’s aim is to provide law students, scholars, lecturers, teachers and other professionals who deal with international or comparative law with insight and background information. The international and comparative law volumes facilitates a comparative study by quick and easy crossreference using hyperlinks. Its aim is to respond to the growing need for the harmonization of legal standards in the international community and to assist national and international organizations in their research.


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