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What is the meaning of non-normative?

Does it mean casual?

If I write a document, what requirements must it have before I can say "it's a normative document" / "it's a non-normative document"?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I typically see this in reference to standards and technical documents. A normative definition or statement is one that should be taken as authoritative or imperative (i.e., a should or a must), while a non-normative one is one that bears no such restriction.

Synonyms for normative would include prescriptive, so synonyms of non-normative could range from descriptive to declarative to informal or casual, depending on context.

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Basically, it means "informal" or "nonstandard", as from the Free Online Dictionary:

Not based on a norm

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I was going to reply that this was just wrong, and the Free Online Dictionary was equally wrong, because it is certainly not how I would use the word. But looking up the word in COCA, I find that the vast majority of uses there are exactly according to this definition, so I was wrong. –  Colin Fine Jun 8 '11 at 10:58

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