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Old 08-26-2010, 09:20 PM
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Parliamentary counsel here. I draft legislation for a living. "May" for permissive provisions; "must" or "is to" for obligatory provisions; "shall", never.

In the past "shall" was regularly used for obligatory provisions, so we often find it in legislation for which we are drafting amendments. Where the opportunity arises, we replace it.

The usage, meaning and connotations of "shall" differs in different versions of English, and has also shifted over time. This makes it not ideally suitable for legislative use.

"Should" is rarely used in the principal clause of a legislative provision, though it often occurs in subordinate clauses. ("The Authority may designate places of historic or scientific interest which, it's view, should be preserved as heritage sites" or "The court, in considering the application, is to have regard to the principle that a final order should be determined expeditiously".) In most cases, the use of "should" is going to point to some principle or consideration which the legislation is directing someone to take into account in their actions or decisions, rather than a principle which the legislation is trying directly to enforce.