Thursday, April 21, 2016

Thinking about Fonts

Although some in the legal community have focused on the advisability of using fonts that make writing more readable, I don’t think the topic has garnered the attention that it should. Librarian Benjamin Keele notes:

For a document by an official or professional, the font choice indicates the level of care taken in its production. If the document is set in Times New Roman, Calibri or any other default font, then at best I find the writing a bit more boring. If the author uses a different, more readable or more interesting font, then I note the thought and care the author put into presenting her work. Some fonts I find so attractive I gain some enjoyment from reading them.

(Note, our blog is in one of those boring fonts, but we editors have no control over that decision)

In a brief article, Keele offers some suggestions on desirable fonts:

Law professor James Grimmelmann gives great suggestions on selecting better fonts for academic legal writing [Here]. He also mentions some journals that use interesting fonts, like the Savannah Law Re view , which uses Equity [here], a font designed by Matthew Butterick, author of the very readable Typ o grap hy fo r Law yers [here].

You can read more here. The leading law review on the subject is Ruth Anne Robbins, Painting with Print: Incorporating concepts of typographic and layout design into the text of legal writing documents, 2 J. ALWD 108 (2004) (here).


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Your font also impacts how fast your printer uses ink/toner.
Those "boring" fonts tend to be more efficient at conserving your ink cartridges.

Posted by: ruralcounsel | Apr 22, 2016 9:24:12 AM

Using a good font doesn’t do much good if it’s not accompanied by good typesetting. Unless its truly bizarre, a font probably has vastly less to do with readability than the typesetting.

For example, some lawyers have gotten the impression that NO words should EVER be divided when using justified text (both left and right margins even). The result is gappy typesetting (large spaces between words) that’s hard to read.

If you’re going to justify the text, then you have to divide a few words at the ends of lines. If you don’t like divided words or don’t know how to divide them properly, don’t justify the text. Instead use left justified text, which results in a perfectly acceptable ragged right margin.

See Butterick’s “Typography for Lawyers” for many more examples of poor typesetting—such as font size (number of characters per line), leading (vertical space between lines), and underscoring, among many others.

Posted by: John Hightower | Apr 22, 2016 7:32:31 AM

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