The Congressional Short Title (R)Evolution: Changing the Face of America’s Public Laws

Brian Christopher Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In order to demonstrate how Congressional short titles have evolved throughout the years, a targeted quantitative study was performed on Acts from the 93rd – 111th Congress (1973 – 2011). The results demonstrate that such titles did not merely evolve, but in fact there was a short title revolution in Congress. The major findings from the article indicate that: short title use has become much more popular; Acts on name changing in the US Congress have increased dramatically; average short title word length has increased; the number and prevalence of “personalized” bill titles has increased; the number of short titles employing acronyms has increased; the number of evocative words used throughout the period studied has increased; and the number of descriptive, technical words has noticeably decreased throughout the time period studied. Further, evocative words such as “modernize”, “freedom” and “America” have become more fashionable, while traditionally technical, legal words such as “amend” and “appropriation” have become less so. The data was analyzed using statistical techniques showing that many of the changes in short titles are highly significant. Accordingly, this article demonstrates that approaches applied to the naming of legislation have radically changed over the past four decades, and that the face of America’s Public Laws has undergone a major shift.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-64
Number of pages23
JournalKentucky Law Journal
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jan 2013


  • Short titles
  • Bills
  • Acts
  • Laws
  • Legislation
  • US Congress
  • Public law
  • Drafting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law
  • Sociology and Political Science


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