Layout Shock No. 1: A New MSCD Enumeration Scheme?

Regular readers will be familiar with the MSCD enumeration scheme. It’s described in excruciating detail in MSCD chapter 4, as well as in this 2012 post.

But I’m keenly aware that the MSCD scheme doesn’t appeal to everybody. This past week, that included a consulting client. That caused the scales to fall from my eyes: in addition to offering my exquisitely logical version of a primarily first-line-indent enumeration scheme, I could offer a logical version of a hanging-indent enumeration scheme!

So without further ado, here it is:

MSCD Hanging-Indent Format Articles Version

It exhibits the following features:

  • This is the “articles” version, in that there’s an article heading, and sections use the 1.1 hierarchy instead of the 1. hierarchy. Otherwise, it’s the same as the “sections” version.
  • Instead of using a centered article heading, I could have put it on one line, flush left, and omitted the word Article, but I thought that would make for cluttered enumeration.
  • The text of sections and subsections is indented equally. In other words, I don’t indent the text of subsections one tab setting further in than the text of sections. Indenting them differently would reflect standard taxonomy logic of the sort used in outlines, but it doesn’t accurately reflect the relationship between sections and subsections. Subsections aren’t one level lower than sections in a taxonomy. Instead, subsections are simply a structural way of making sections easier to manage. It’s like the difference between leaving a cake whole or cutting it into slices. It’s misleading to indent subsections differently from sections, and it wastes space.
  • Instead, I distinguish subsections from sections by indenting subsection enumeration slightly.
  • I indent tabulated enumerated clauses one tab setting further in than sections. Tabulated enumerated clauses are in effect bullet points, so it’s appropriate to put the enumeration at the left edge of the text.
  • I enumerate tabulated enumerated clauses using the (1) hierarchy, whether or not they occur in a section or a subsection. For more on that, see MSCD 4.45 and my 2012 post.
  • [Updated October 12, 2015: Whereas first-line indenting allows you, even requires you, to put text after a section heading, that doesn’t work well with handing indents. And if a section heading has a line to itself, there’s no point putting a period at the end. So no period! I’ve updated the image accordingly.]

So there you have it, bitchez! (And that includes you, Lemens, Javert to my Jean Valjean when it comes to layout!) What do you think?

If it survives scrutiny, this enumeration scheme will appear in the fourth edition of MSCD on equal footing with the current MSCD enumeration scheme. I’d call the current one “the MSCD first-line-indent enumeration scheme” and this one “the MSCD hanging-indent enumeration scheme.”

About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.