headings

Fewer levels;
subtler emphasis

Head­ings present two prob­lems: struc­tural and typo­graphic. Cure the struc­tural prob­lem and the typo­graphic prob­lem becomes sim­pler.

The main struc­tural prob­lem is that law­yers often use too many lev­els of head­ings. This leads to increas­ingly des­per­ate attempts to make them visu­ally dis­tinct, usu­ally with inju­di­cious com­bi­na­tions of bold or italic, underlining, point size, all caps, and first-line indents. The result is train­wrecks like this:

iv.) The Defen­dant Has
Suf­fi­cient Min­i­mum Con­tacts with Cal­i­for­nia.

Head­ings are sign­posts for read­ers that reveal the struc­ture of your argu­ment. Note that I didn’t say the struc­ture of your doc­u­ment. Head­ings that announce every topic, subtopic, mini­topic, and micro­topic are exhaust­ing. If you write from an out­line, that can be a good start­ing point for your head­ings, but don’t stop there—sim­plify it fur­ther.

Limit your­self to three lev­els of head­ings. Two is bet­ter. Read­ers should be able to ori­ent them­selves from the head­ings. With more than three lev­els, that task becomes hope­lessly con­fus­ing.