Typography for Lawyers: A must read for every lawyer

I am a big fan of Matthew Butterick’s website Typography for Lawyers. Matthew, a practicing attorney and former typographer, instructs lawyers how to use typographic tools and techniques to better communicate and persuade others through writing. He eloquently points out how lawyers—steeped in tradition and incredibly reluctant to change the way they write—use poor typography in their legal briefs, memoranda, and correspondence.

Most people think typography is about selecting fonts. But it is about much more than font selection. Typography is concerned with all aspects of presenting written material on the page, including type composition, page layout, text formatting, etc. Matthew explores each of these categories, explaining rules and providing examples of both good and bad technique. He explains how good typography can make an enormous difference in the presentation of one’s writing and, consequently, how it can make one’s writing more persuasive.

Matthew also discusses how lawyers commonly misinterpret court rules concerning page and text formatting, believing that the rules inhibit the use of good typography. Whereas, in reality, most court rules provide enough flexibility for lawyers to implement good typographic technique.  Matthew not only explains how to correctly interpret the court rules, but supplies before and after samples of pleadings and memoranda.

As if the website was not enough, Matthew has put this incredible resource (and much more) into a book entitled Typography for Lawyers, which is available for purchase through Jones McClure Publishing.

One of my favorite sections of the website and the book discusses how many spaces (one or two) should follow a period between sentences. I have advocated for one space for as long as I can remember. After all, every modern style manual calls for one space rather than two. Yet, most lawyers I know insist on using two spaces—a throw back to the typewriter era. I have had more than a few office run-ins on the subject and I assume that Matthew has too, considering that he dedicates several pages in his book to the issue, wherein he cites both the experts and the hold-outs.

I have read the book twice in the two weeks I’ve owned it and it has forever changed the way I look at the written page. I only wish he had published the book ten years ago when I started practicing law. The book should be mandatory reading for all attorneys, new and old.

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