Clauses or Sections?

Allen Wirfs-Brock Allen.Wirfs-Brock at
Fri Nov 20 13:06:52 PST 2009

"clause" is ISO (and hence ECMA) required terminology for what most of us would prefer to call a "section" or "chapter".  There is also the term "subclause" but it usually can be avoided.  Hopefully, all the referencing terminology is consistent with the ISO rules (if not, no doubt we will hear about it during the fast track process).  Generally you have to explicitly say "clause" in front of a "whole number reference (eg, "clause 7" or "see clause 7") but you can leave out "subclass from such references, eg "(7.2)" or "see 7.2".   If anybody would like to read the whole  68 pages of such rules the document you want to see is ISO/IEC-016 "Rules for the structure and drafting of International Standards"  :-)


From: es-discuss-bounces at [mailto:es-discuss-bounces at] On Behalf Of Thomas L. Shinnick
Sent: Monday, November 16, 2009 12:47 PM
To: Brendan Eich
Cc: es-discuss
Subject: Re: Clauses or Sections?

At 01:35 PM 11/16/2009, Brendan Eich wrote:

On Nov 16, 2009, at 11:25 AM, Garrett Smith wrote:

The ES5 Specification mentions "clauses" in many places (e.g. "Clause
10."). This seems unclear. Is a "clause" the same thing as a
"section"? Why the double terminology?

I don't know -- I should have noticed these, since ES3 lacks such
solecisms. "Clause" occurs in ES3 only as part of CatchClause(s).

It's odd to use clause, which has a specific meaning in natural
language grammars, and a different but irrelevant meaning for legal
documents, to mean something as big as an ES5 section.

Allen no doubt knows the history. I hope this isn't an Ecma thing.

I'm sure it is, and the style is consistent with 'clause' === 'chapter-level', e.g.
    "The syntactic grammar for ECMAScript is given in clauses 11, 12, 13 and 14."

This bit of strangeness was mentioned by me back in January, saying
    Sometimes there will be a bare "clause 7" or "See clause 14", but elsewhere it will be stated "See 7.2" or "See clause 14.1"
    Is it just custom not to say 'chapter' or 'section'?  Or is it a carry-over from some style guide?
                    :              <examples>                 :
    In fact, it seems the uses of 'section' outnumber those of 'clause'...
    It does conflict a bit with needed terminology "case clause"
and by others since.

Gotta be a style thing, as in 'irritating' but thus not actionable?

I'm a pessimist about probabilities; I'm an optimist about possibilities.
    Lewis Mumford  (1895-1990)
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