where do the rules come from?

Professional typography

What peo­ple know about typog­ra­phy can usu­ally be traced back to typ­ing-class teach­ers (or com­puter-lab teach­ers) and other unre­li­able sources. I’m sure your teach­ers were lovely peo­ple, but they were there to teach you typ­ing (or BASIC pro­gram­ming), not typog­ra­phy. And what they knew about typog­ra­phy prob­a­bly came from their own typ­ing teach­ers 30 years ear­lier (see typewriter habits).

It’s not sur­pris­ing that these bad habits get passed along. What’s sur­pris­ing is how tena­cious they can be.

A core prin­ci­ple of this book is that typog­ra­phy in legal doc­u­ments should be mea­sured by the same stan­dards as any pro­fes­sion­ally pub­lished mate­r­ial, like books, news­pa­pers, and mag­a­zines. There is nolegal typog­ra­phy.” There is only typog­ra­phy.

This wasn’t always true. Dur­ing the era when law offices relied on type­writ­ers, pro­fes­sional pub­lish­ers had type­set­ting and print­ing tech­nol­ogy that was sub­stan­tially bet­ter. So for law­yers, the typo­graphic stan­dards of pro­fes­sional pub­lish­ers were far out of reach.

That’s no longer the case. Tech­nol­ogy has brought law-office type­set­ting nearly up to the stan­dards of pro­fes­sional type­set­ting. Mod­ern word proces­sors and laser print­ers have made it pos­si­ble for law­yers to pro­duce doc­u­ments with excel­lent typog­ra­phy.

There­fore, law­yers can and should raise their stan­dards. That’s why the rules here reflect the cus­toms of pro­fes­sional typog­ra­phers and the major­ity views of author­i­ties on typog­ra­phy, fil­tered through my expe­ri­ence as a pro­fes­sional typog­ra­pher and as a law­yer.

But I’m also a prag­ma­tist. I know the feel­ing of rush­ing to fin­ish a motion an hour before the dead­line. I assume that you want the best typo­graphic results for the low­est cost—and noth­ing is more costly than your time. There­fore, I endorse a few short­cuts where the effort out­weighs the results.