CBA Record Nov-Dec 2019
adults learn best for over a century. Edgar Dale’s learning pyramid posits adults learn better from visual images plus reading, than from reading alone. Hence, the more visually appealing a text document is, the more engaged readers will be, and the more information they will retain. In addition to overall learning theory, Robbins found specific studies on aspects of document design support paying attention to typography. Proportionally spaced fonts, described below, are easier to read than monospaced fonts. The latter slow the reader down significantly. Increasing white space on a page to 50% also increases legibility and is a standard in graphic design. Lawyers should take advantage of the well-developed principles of graphic design when designing their documents. Five document design tips for your next brief or contract Short of sending your work to a graphic designer, consider these few simple changes for your next document. 1. Use proportionally spaced fonts. But not Times New Roman. This came as a surprise to me after using Times New Roman for years. More on that later. Avoid monospaced type. In the old days of typewriters, every character had to take up the same amount of space. A capital M took up as much space as a lowercase i. Courier is an example of this font on computers. Studies show that monospaced type is more difficult to read. Instead, legal writers should prefer proportionally spaced type. Garamond is an example. Proportionally spaced type is easier to read and takes up less space – especially important if you are writing a brief in a jurisdiction with page limits instead of word count limits. This is an example of monospaced type. (Courier New) This is an example of proportionally spaced type. (Garamond) The Seventh Circuit recommends using a typeface designed for use in books, such as Baskerville, Bembo, Caslon, Deepdene, Galliard, Jenson, Minion, Palatino, Pontifex, Stone Serif, Trump Mediäval, or Utopia. Matthew Butterick, a well-regarded authority and author of Typography for Lawyers (website: https://typography- forlawyers.com/), recommends using a professional font, such as Equity, Plantin, or Starling. Both the Seventh Circuit and Butterick advise against using Times New Roman. The Seventh Circuit and other commentators note Times New Roman betrays its newspaper roots by crowding letters close together (to better fit into a narrow column). It is more difficult to read in a brief with long lines. Says Butterick, “Never choose Times New Roman or Arial, as those fonts are favored only by the apathetic and sloppy. Not by typographers. Not by you.” Professional fonts are superior to the system fonts on your Mac or PC. For little extra cost, attorneys can improve the visual impact of their text. 2. Increase white space . Adopt the 50/50 standard from graphic design—50%white space for every page of text. “White space helps readers focus on the text: It makes the text stand out. White space also lets readers rest after reading the text: It breaks the monotony.
NOTA BENE BY KATHLEEN DILLON NARKO
“How a document looks is as important as what it says.” – Gerald Lebovits, Document Design: Pretty in Print Part I , 81 N.Y. St. B.J., March/April 64 (2009). Lawyers need to up their game. For too long, we have ignored an additional way in which our writing can persuade: document design or typography.MatthewButterick, a graphic artist turned lawyer, de- fines typography as, “[T] he visual component of the written word.” This includes things that affect how text appears on the page: font type, white space, alignment (justification), underlining, italics, and more. When done with an eye towards better design, all of these factors come together to engage readers and keep their attention. The Seventh Circuit is ahead of the curve. It has issued “Require- ments and Suggestions for Typography in Briefs and Other Papers” in its Practitioner’s Handbook for Appeals to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit , available on the court’s website (http://www.ca7.uscourts.gov/rules-procedures/Handbook.pdf). Why is typography important? Good document design makes it easier for the reader to read your writing. This is another opportunity to engage the reader. Don’t miss it. In introducing its Suggestions for Typography, the Seventh Circuit notes professionals should use all the tools at their disposal to persuade a client. “Law is no different. Choosing the best type won’t guarantee success, but it is worthwhile to invest some time in improving the quality of the brief’s appearance and legibility.” The court goes on to say, “This section of the handbook also includes some suggestions to help you make your submissions more legible — and thus more likely to be grasped and retained.” Science supports the court’s emphasis on good typography. Prof. Ruth Anne Robbins summarized the scientific support for mak- ing a document visibly effective and readable ( Painting with Print: Incorporating Concepts of Typographic and Layout Design into the Text of Legal Writing Documents , 2 J. Ass’n Legal Writing Directors 108, 113–14 (2004)). Psychologists and educators have studied how Kathleen Dillon Narko is a Clinical Professor of Law at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and a member of the CBA Record Editorial Board. HowDo I Look? Design Your Documents for Greater Legibility and Persuasion
38 November/December 2019
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