Document Drafting Handbook (DDH)
Note: Throughout this handbook website, “we,” “our,” and “OFR” refer to the Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), while “you” and “your” refer to both Federal agencies and their agency drafters who prepare documents for publication in the Federal Register. GPO refers to the Government Publishing Office. We use:
- “must” to indicate a requirement;
- “should” to indicate a strong recommendation;
- “may” to indicate an option; and
- "can" to indicate that something is technically possible but you must decide if it is legal, practical, and feasible.
The DDH gives Federal agencies guidance and examples for drafting Federal Register documents. This guidance explains how to follow the transmission, format, and editorial requirements established in 44 U.S.C. chapter 15 (the Federal Register Act; FRA) and 1 CFR chapter I. The full DDH is available as a pdf which you may use online or download. You may also access targeted content in web format throughout this website. (Eventually, all DDH content will be available in web format.)
Before contacting our Scheduling unit, visit Agency FAQs for OFR, review the DDH, and check out our Writing Resources (in the right-side navigation) and For Federal Agencies (in the left-side navigation). If you still have questions, see Contact Information to determine how to direct your question.
We will always have the most-current edition and revision available from this page and we will alert your agency's liaisons whenever we issue a new edition.
The current DDH version is the 2018 Edition, Revision 2.1. (This revision is a cumulative revision and replaced all earlier revisions.)
You must begin using this version by September 1, 2023, except for the new correction reporting process, which is mandatory as of October 2, 2023.
This edition contains the revised instructions for digital transmissions; the changed process for rules with information collections requirements that haven’t been approved by OMB; and an appendix to highlight some stylistic, formatting, and structural conventions that are no longer allowed and must be corrected in your regulations.
Earlier revisions added a category for final rules issued under the Congressional Review Act, formalized how long an agency has to notify us of when we cause an error in the CFR, clarified the use of notes, footnotes, and appendices, provided additional details regarding appropriate titles in a signature block, and noted other technical restrictions. (All revisions, including 2, fixed errors stemming from the conversion from MS Word to pdf and other typographical errors.)
- changes Chapter 5 to:
- change the chapter title
- introduce updated policy information and instructions regarding corrections;
- clarify that agencies are responsible for correcting errors in documents approved by their Federal Register liaison — regardless of who introduced the error; and
- clarify how to withdraw published documents;
- removes the requirement to provide 2 extra original documents or 2 certified copies of paper documents sent for publication in the Federal Register (in line with guidance sent to agencies January 2023);
- permanently adopts our COVID-19 policy to discontinue accepting floppy disks;
- clarifies issues around digital signatures and adding information for creating a digital autopen;
- reminds agencies that all notes, figures, and tables must be numbered (or lettered) - even if there is only one
- encourages agencies to avoid using footnotes in the preamble;
- permanently adopts our beta amendatory instruction revise and republish;
- reminds agencies that for regulations to be incorporated into the annual CFR volume, the final rule must be both published and effective before the "Revised of" date;
- provides more information on technical restrictions and requirements in MS Word documents — remember the following before sending us a MS Word file (whether signed and transmitted through the webportal or unsigned and accompanying a paper document):
- remove active or embedded hyperlinks
- remove auto-numbering and add numbers/letters manually
- disable or remove active macros
- remove hidden characters and data
- remove or disable fields (this includes a table of contents in SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION created using MS Word's table of contents option)
- remove comments and tracked changes
- format table content using MS Word's table tool; do not format tables using tabs
Revision 2.1 corrects several links and removes obsolete text.
If you have questions about the FRA or our regulations, contact the Legal Affairs and Policy Division (fedreg.legal at nara.gov).
If you have questions about incorporation by reference (IBR), review our IBR Handbook.
If you can’t find answers to your drafting, transmission, or publication questions online:
|If you are...||Contact...||For...|
|a Federal Register Liaison Officer||the OFR Scheduling Unit (fedreg.liaison at nara.gov)||
|other agency staff||your agency’s Federal Register Liaison Officer||
|a Federal employee (Liaison Officer or agency staff)||OFR technical support (ofrtechgroup at gpo.gov)||
|a contractor||your contracting agency’s Federal Register Liaison Officer||All questions and requests.|
Chapter 1: What are the requirements for drafting any document?
Chapter 2: How do I write a document for the Proposed Rules category?
2.14 Amendatory Language: Revise and republish
Chapter 3: How do I write a document for the Rules and Regulations category?
3.14 Amendatory Language: Revise and republish
Chapter 4: How do I write a document for the Notices category?
Chapter 5: How do I correct or withdraw a document?
5.7 Corrections to a proposed rule
5.8 Corrections to a notice
Chapter 6: Electronic files and online transmissions
Chapter 7: Figures, forms, tables, notes, and appendices
Chapter 8: How do I publish a document in the Federal Register?
Appendix A: LETTER TEMPLATES
A.4 CD Certification
Appendix B: PKI AND DIGITAL SIGNATURE - INTRODUCTION AND FAQS
Appendix C: DRAFTING CONVENTIONS NO LONGER PERMITTED
Appendix D: INDEX OF TABLES AND EXAMPLES