Friday, February 11, 2011
The effect of readability as measured by sentence and word length was recently studied by Professors Lance N. Long of Stetson (pictured at right) and William F. Christensen of Brigham Young University. In Does the Readability of Your Brief Affect Your Chance of Winning an Appeal? An Analysis of Readability in Appellate Briefs and Its Correlation with Success on Appeal, they report their study of 882 briefs filed in federal and state courts and conclude that readability does not have a statistically significant effect on case outcome. This may be partly due to another of their findings, that there was not much difference in the readability of the briefs they studied. The article includes other interesting findings and ends with helpful suggestions for brief writers.
Formatting for readability is the topic of Best Dressed Briefs—Why Appearance Matters, by Professor Susan Duncan of the University of Louisville. This bar journal piece discusses the effect of such characteristics as typeface, white space, and underlining, and notes that courts can be “passionate about how the brief looks.”