Typography for Lawyers

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

A handy and well-written online guide from designer-turned-lawyer Matthew Butterick proves the old adage, "Once a typophile, always a typophile." :-)

http://www.typographyforlawyers.com/

(Via Design Observer.)

BlueStreak's picture

Thanks for posting that here. I somehow missed seeing it on DO. It's definitely a bookmarkable site and I believe goes beyond just being appropriate for lawyers. That's the kind of information that should be taught in elementary school, but seems to be unknown to most college graduates.

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

I agree, BlueStreak.

iffy's picture

I don't work for a lawyer, but an international company. That makes me want to send out a mass email with the link attached. It also works so well for corporate America.

blank's picture

That’s the kind of information that should be taught in elementary school, but seems to be unknown to most college graduates.

That’s because many schools are still packed full of teachers who learned the rules for typing on typewriters. Elementary school teachers should be the real audience for this web site!

EK's picture

Avoid using the core operating system fonts in printed documents. On Windows, that means Arial, Calibri, Cambria, Candara, Comic Sans, Courier, Georgia, Helvetica, any flavor of Lucida, Palatino, Trebuchet, and Verdana ...

Georgia? Seriously?

Zivatar's picture

Butterick suggests avoiding Windows system fonts on the theory that they're designed to look good on computer screens, not paper. I don't think that advice applies to all Windows system fonts (e.g., Palatino, Georgia). However, I would eliminate Georgia (and several other decent system fonts) for normal legal use because Georgia uses old style figures in the Windows system version. Old style figures don't jive with text that includes lots of legal citations. They just don't. I don't care how trendy OSF may be in typography circles, or how pretty some OSF sets are. OSF suck in legal usage.

So I don't agree with Butterick in every detail. But I think that he's right 95% of the time, or more. If lawyers slavishly followed his advice, legal briefs would look a lot better, and read a lot better.

I wish he'd suggested some good fonts to use for legal writing, instead of just suggesting fonts to avoid.

will powers's picture

Zivatar: Please expand on your remarks about OSF in legal work. I'm not arguing with you; I know from nothing in this regard. I'd just like some more substantive comments. Something with a bit more meat than "OSF suck in legal usage."

thanks.

powers

Chris Dean's picture

track

boardman's picture

Agreed that it's a very nice site. I like his visual explanation of what happens when setting two spaces between sentences. He also makes nice use of Cambria (CSS below) on the site, though this might be part of a WordPress template.

p, li {
font-family: Cambria, Georgia, Times New Roman, Calibri, serif;
font-size: 18px;
line-height: 25px;
}

Jongseong's picture

Regarding the issue of OSF in legal writing, I just started a new thread and invite people to comment there:

Suitability of OSF vs LF for different fields of writing

EK's picture

Old style figures don’t jive with text that includes lots of legal citations. They just don’t. I don’t care how trendy OSF may be in typography circles, or how pretty some OSF sets are. OSF suck in legal usage.

I used to think so, but I changed my mind. I simply got used to it.

guifa's picture

I like his visual explanation of what happens when setting two spaces between sentences.

Maybe I'm just old fashioned (though I've never had to seriously type on a typewriter just playing around when I was a kid) but I prefer two spaces after sentence final punctuation. And, he cheats in his example. He uses three spaces which I definitely agree is too much. It also has a nice disambiguating effect whenever you have a text that will have punctuation marks used as non-sentence enders. This happens more often in Spanish because it will flank portions of sentences that as needed. Often times in English is clear by the lack of capital letter post-punctuation, but it's still possible for it to happen and I'd think that in a legal context the clearer things are the better.

«El futuro es una línea tan fina que apenas nos damos cuenta de pintarla nosotros mismos». (La Luz Oscura, por Javier Guerrero)

bowerbird's picture

very nice site. basic information, but very thorough. recommended...

-bowerbird

Richard Fink's picture

>OSF suck in legal usage.

Not just legal. I proof read and format papers with a lot of citations in the medical field. They look weird there, too.

Richard Fink's picture

Want to add one more thing since I've been reading a lot of legal stuff lately:
Subliminally I find the opinions with good typography more persuasive regardless of the content! And have to consciously fight to ignore the presentational aspects and focus solely on the ideas.
Anybody who says good typography doesn't count: rubbish.

butterick's picture

The Utah Supreme Court recently redesigned the layout of its decisions based on the guidelines in Typography for Lawyers.

Before: http://typo.la/ub
After: http://typo.la/ua

Si_Daniels's picture

Nice, but I wonder why they went with Book Antiqua instead of Palatino/Palatino Linotype?

Cheers, Si

Rob O. Font's picture

That looks great MB. I'm glad to see some progress from you efforts.

Richard Fink's picture

I can't know for sure, but I would imagine that the most common legal document the average person is exposed to these days is the EULA contract and that, along with other more occasional documents like mortgage notes etc.. the overall impression is that anything lawyers write is bore/snore and indecipherable by ordinary humans.
The idea that court decisions can be interesting reading and even deliberately humorous at times, would be greeted with disbelief, I think.

The typography plays into this and I'm glad to see it changing.

I'm hoping some kind of HTML takes hold soon as well. Wouldn't it be great to just click on a citation and go right to it? (But this will be a long time comin', I'm sure.)

The first example of the Utah Supreme Court's formatting says: "Prepare to be bored." You really don't want to go past the title page. At least I don't.
Glancing at it, I think a lot of people would automatically assume it's a an old document, too. I mean, what other reason could there be for the Selectric look?

The redesign is much friendlier and much more readable.

Nice going, Butterick. In a profession where WordPerfect is still the standard word processing program and IE6 reigns supreme, you've moved the immovable.

bowerbird's picture

looks like butterick is apt to remove comments that don't agree with him.

especially when the tide starts to roll heavily against him...

so i hereby revoke my earlier recommendation, with prejudice...

-bowerbird

rayzb92's picture

Nice, but I wonder why they went with Book Antiqua instead of Palatino/Palatino Linotype?

Si, would Palatino Linotype have been a better choice than Book Antiqua? If so, why?

Albert Jan Pool's picture

Book Antiqua versus Palatino

Nice, but I wonder why they went with Book Antiqua instead of Palatino/Palatino Linotype?

Si, would Palatino Linotype have been a better choice than Book Antiqua? If so, why?

Because Book Antiqua started its life as a Palatino knock-off. Hermann Zapf, the designer of Palatino, was angry about this. Initially, nobody asked him for his permission, let alone negotiated with him on financial aspects. If I am informed right, it was the main reason why Hermann Zapf terminated his membership of ATypI on the Antwerp congress in 1993.
http://www.paulshawletterdesign.com/2012/12/blue-pencil-no-20-zapfiana-n...
(about half way down in the article: Although ITC’s business model relied … Zapf continued to speak out on the issue of typeface piracy—even to the point of dramatically quitting ATypI in 1993 over the membership of companies he considered to be guilty of such practice …)

rayzb92's picture

Because Book Antiqua started its life as a Palatino knock-off. Hermann Zapf, the designer of Palatino, was angry about this.

Albert, I'm aware of this fact. I try to understand Si Daniels' (Microsoft) underlying reason for his question. Maybe Si would choose Palatino Linotype over Book Antiqua (because of the same reason you mentioned). Or not at all, hence my question.

hrant's picture

looks like butterick is apt to remove comments that don't agree with him.

Yes, for somebody concerned with good typography, he's not at all big on good communication. For example, from his Twitter profile: "I use Twitter as a write-only device."

hhp

Syndicate content Syndicate content