Typography for Lawyers

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Ricardo Cordoba's picture
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Joined: 6 Jun 2005 - 6:57pm
Typography for Lawyers
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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.)

Dan Hall's picture
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Joined: 13 Oct 2005 - 2:40pm
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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
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Joined: 6 Jun 2005 - 6:57pm
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I agree, BlueStreak.

Katherine Allen's picture
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Joined: 28 Dec 2007 - 11:00am
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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
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Joined: 25 Sep 2006 - 2:15pm
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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!

Eran Kaplinsky's picture
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Joined: 24 Jul 2007 - 4:07pm
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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?

Timothy B. Mustaine's picture
Joined: 29 Sep 2006 - 10:45pm
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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
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Joined: 16 Jun 2005 - 10:32pm
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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

Christopher Timothy Dean's picture
Joined: 22 Oct 2006 - 10:49pm
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track

Andrew E. Boardman's picture
Joined: 2 Feb 2003 - 10:04am
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Agreed that it's a very nice site. I like his visual explanation of what happens when setting two spaces http:// 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;
}

Brian Jongseong Park's picture
Joined: 15 Mar 2006 - 12:53pm
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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

Eran Kaplinsky's picture
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Joined: 24 Jul 2007 - 4:07pm
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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.

Matthew Stephen Stuckwisch's picture
Joined: 7 Feb 2007 - 10:21am
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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 intelligentleman's picture
Joined: 5 Mar 2009 - 5:27am
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very nice site. basic information, but very thorough. recommended...

-bowerbird

Richard Fink's picture
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Joined: 25 May 2009 - 10:04pm
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>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
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Joined: 25 May 2009 - 10:04pm
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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.

Matthew Butterick's picture
Joined: 28 Jul 2009 - 3:14pm
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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

Simon Daniels's picture
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Joined: 11 Apr 2002 - 6:37pm
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Nice, but I wonder why they went with Book Antiqua instead of Palatino/Palatino Linotype?

Cheers, Si

David Berlow's picture
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Joined: 19 Jul 2004 - 6:31pm
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That looks great MB. I'm glad to see some progress from you efforts.

Richard Fink's picture
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Joined: 25 May 2009 - 10:04pm
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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 intelligentleman's picture
Joined: 5 Mar 2009 - 5:27am
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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

-'s picture
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Joined: 13 Jul 2014 - 7:00am
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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
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Joined: 30 Aug 2006 - 2:14am
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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 …)

-'s picture
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Joined: 13 Jul 2014 - 7:00am
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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 H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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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