From the ECMAScript language specification ECMA-262 page 1 Section 4

This section contains a non-normative overview of the ECMAScript language

The text goes on to say

ECMAScript is an object-oriented programming language for performing computations...

What does "non-normative" mean in this context?

  • 7
    The organization itself probably defines normative and non-normative somewhere, but if it's anything like the W3C's documents, normative means something like "the actual specifications" and non-normative means something like "tips, guidelines, etc. that are easier to read than the actual specs, but you must still rely on the actual specs; this stuff isn't authoritative". – aedia λ Oct 31 '11 at 18:14
  • 1
    possible duplicate of What is the meaning of non-normative? – Colin Fine Nov 1 '11 at 11:58
  • @ColinFine, Wow, this duplicate has more upvotes then my original. – Pacerier Oct 14 '14 at 20:55

From sitepoint.com:

A normative section is a formal part of the recommendation. It contains rules that everyone must follow.

A non-normative, or informative, section contains additional information, advice and suchlike that isn't a formal part of the standard. That doesn't mean the information is less important, but it's not binding in the same way as the normative sections.

A good synonym, then, seems to be informal.

  • 7
    I'd have said the synonym is informational, as opposed to the "normative" sections being either defining or prescriptive (or recommendational, if I can get away with that one). – FumbleFingers Oct 31 '11 at 18:37
  • Aren't the normative sections informational, though? – Daniel Oct 31 '11 at 18:52
  • Well yes - that's why I said as opposed to. The implication being that the "non-normative" sections are merely informational. – FumbleFingers Oct 31 '11 at 18:59
  • Other synonyms could be explanatory, descriptive (as opposed to prescriptive), unofficial, or expository. – calvin Nov 19 '14 at 23:06
  • I happen to read a spec on MQTT protocol where port numbers assigned to MQTT are mentioned as non-normative comment. Isn't that wrong? Shouldn't that be normative? Part of spec " Non-normative comment : TCP ports 8883 and 1883 are registered with IANA for MQTT TLS and non-TLS communication respectively. – Kozlov Aug 15 '18 at 6:48

'Normative' means 'what you should do' or 'what you must do', the rules that you are supposed to follow.

So 'non-normative' means 'what is recommended to be done', the suggestions on how to do things well (within the formal specifications laid out in the 'normative' part). It can also mean 'how people generally do things' whatever the formal rules say.

In a technical manual, something that is called 'non-normative' is most likely going to be general tips and examples on how to do what you want rather than a reference grammar or technical schema.


I was also researching about this word. And seeing the answers above make me clear in this way:

  • Normative: Norms and principals that you must follow.
  • Non-normative: No norms and principals but you may kindly follow.

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