How to Employ an Effective Code Numbering Scheme

Managing a large document such as a municipal code requires a numbering scheme that is efficient for both users – government, law firms, developers, etc. – and editors who update the books. For this reason, Code Publishing Company employs a three-factor decimal numbering scheme that makes amending and referencing the code a much easier task. Here’s how CPC’s numbering scheme breaks down:

To expand on this concept, let’s look at Chapter 2.15 of the Shoreline Municipal Code. As you can see, there are 11 sections contained in Chapter 2.15, with nine vacant positions separating each section number (.010, .020, .030, etc.). Chapters are spaced in a similar fashion, with four vacancies between (.05, .10, .15, .20, etc.). Such spacing is more conducive to amending the code. For example, if the Shoreline City Council wants to add a section to the code, they can tack it on at the end of the chapter (as Section 2.15.120), or they can add it in between two sections (as Section 2.15.055).

Another example of this is Title 10 of Shoreline’s code, Vehicles and Foot Traffic, which contains those “in-between” chapters (10.07, 10.08 and 10.09):

The three-decimal system gives the document a cleaner appearance, as there is plenty of room to add chapters and sections (not to mention titles, a few of which are marked “Reserved” strictly for this purpose). Obviously, not every code uses this scheme. Let’s look at Phoenix. Instead of the more flexible three-decimal system, Phoenix’s code is broken down by Chapter, Article, and Section, with a sequentially numbered two-decimal system that leaves no space for adding chapters or sections. (Publisher's note: This code was originally published by another codifier)

You’ll notice the above screenshot is of Chapter 5A of the Phoenix Municipal Code. The chapters are numbered up to 43, but you’ll also notice there are many instances of chapter numbers followed by a letter (Chapters 5A and 5B). Breaking it down even further, any added section requires a decimal (such as Section 5-27.1). This is the downside of a restrictive numbering system.

In addition to amending the code, another benefit of the three-decimal system is how it eases hypertext linking. It’s cumbersome to both read and link “Chapter 2, Article 1, Section 10” compared to “2.05.010.” The three-decimal numbering scheme also comes in handy when adding a new title or zoning code, which we will address next week.