As law­yers, we know that writ­ing is cen­tral to our work. Whether it’s a sixty-page brief for the United States Supreme Court, or a two-line email tapped out in an air­port ter­mi­nal, our jobs re­quire a steady flow of clear, ef­fec­tive writ­ten communications.

But we do more than write. We edit, we rewrite, we for­mat, we print, we copy, we fax, we mail, we file. We take re­spon­si­bil­ity for all the steps be­tween us and our read­ers. And we’re li­able for the con­se­quences if we don’t. So we’re more than just writ­ers—we’re publishers.

In fact, we’re part of the biggest pub­lish­ing in­dus­try in the United States. Ac­cord­ing to the Bu­reau of La­bor Sta­tis­tics, in May 2018, the print-pub­lish­ing in­dus­try (in­clud­ing books, news­pa­pers, and mag­a­zines) em­ployed 731,800 peo­ple at an av­er­age hourly wage of $44.80. Mean­while, 1,127,900 peo­ple were em­ployed in law-re­lated jobs at an av­er­age hourly wage of $52.25, in­clud­ing 642,750 lawyers.

But those fig­ures don’t ex­press the other di­men­sion of our writ­ing: how con­se­quen­tial it is. Some of us han­dle is­sues that in­volve life and death, or civil rights and op­pres­sion, or jobs and liveli­hoods. But re­gard­less of the stakes, all of us are han­dling is­sues that are im­por­tant to some­one—our clients.

In short, our work mat­ters.
Be­cause our work mat­ters, our writ­ing mat­ters.
Be­cause our writ­ing mat­ters, our ty­pog­ra­phy matters.

I’m not here to tell you that ty­pog­ra­phy is at the core of a law­yer’s work. It’s not. But ty­pog­ra­phy can op­ti­mize that work. All writ­ing nec­es­sar­ily in­volves ty­pog­ra­phy. And good writ­ing is part of good law­yer­ing. So good ty­pog­ra­phy is too. If you ig­nore ty­pog­ra­phy, you’re ig­nor­ing an op­por­tu­nity to im­prove both your writ­ing and your advocacy.

This book is based on three core principles:

  1. Good ty­pog­ra­phy is part of good law­yer­ing.

  2. Le­gal doc­u­ments are pro­fes­sion­ally pub­lished ma­te­r­ial and thus should be held to the same ty­po­graphic standards.

  3. Any law­yer can mas­ter the es­sen­tials of good typography.

By the way, you won’t need to break—or even bend—any of your lo­cal court rules to achieve bet­ter ty­pog­ra­phy. (If you’re skep­ti­cal, jump ahead to how to in­ter­pret court rules.)

You will find, how­ever, that much of what law­yers con­sider cor­rect ty­pog­ra­phy is merely an ac­cu­mu­la­tion of bad habits and ur­ban leg­ends. These will be set aside in fa­vor of pro­fes­sional ty­po­graphic habits. Pre­pare your­self—myths will be punctured.

The first chap­ter of this book, why ty­pog­ra­phy mat­ters, ex­plains what ty­pog­ra­phy is and why you should care.

The next three chap­ters cover ty­po­graphic rules. Type com­po­si­tion cov­ers the sym­bols and char­ac­ters avail­able on the key­board. Text for­mat­ting cov­ers the ap­pear­ance of char­ac­ters and text, in­clud­ing a se­lec­tion of font rec­om­men­da­tions. Page lay­out cov­ers the broader is­sues that sur­face when putting doc­u­ments to­gether. In each chap­ter, rather than group­ing the rules into top­ics and subtopics, I’ve se­quenced them roughly in or­der of dif­fi­culty, and grouped them into ba­sic and ad­vanced sets.

The last chap­ter, sam­ple doc­u­ments, brings every­thing to­gether by work­ing through be­fore-and-af­ter ex­am­ples of com­mon le­gal doc­u­ments.

Use this book how­ever you like. Some will want to learn every­thing in type com­po­si­tion be­fore mov­ing on to text for­mat­ting. Oth­ers will want to mas­ter the ba­sic rules in each chap­ter be­fore try­ing the ad­vanced rules. Oth­ers will want to open the book only when a spe­cific ty­po­graphic ques­tion arises.

Re­gard­less of the path you choose, don’t just read the rules. Prac­tice. Find ty­po­graphic prob­lems and solve them. That’s the eas­i­est way to get bet­ter at typography.

The ty­po­graphic rules in this book aren’t lim­ited to par­tic­u­lar soft­ware. You can ap­ply them in just about any type­set­ting pro­gram.

I’ve in­cluded spe­cific tips for six com­mon word proces­sors: Mi­crosoft Word 2010, 2013, and 2016 (for Win­dows); Mi­crosoft Word 2011 and 2016 (for Mac OS); and Corel Word­Per­fect (for Win­dows). Tips for Word ap­ply to all ver­sions un­less specified.

But the fo­cus of this book is ty­pog­ra­phy. It’s not in­tended to re­place your soft­ware man­ual or help file. I’ve skipped in­struc­tions for top­ics that are es­pe­cially ba­sic (e.g., how to ap­ply bold or italic for­mat­ting) or es­pe­cially com­pli­cated (e.g., how to im­ple­ment para­graph and char­ac­ter styles).

Le­gal doc­u­ments lie along a con­tin­uum from more ty­po­graph­i­cally flex­i­ble (e.g., let­ter­head, re­search memos) to less (e.g., mo­tions). Not every rec­om­men­da­tion in this book will suit every doc­u­ment. Use your judgment.

I some­times il­lus­trate ty­po­graphic ideas with ex­am­ples from Cal­i­for­nia lit­i­ga­tion be­cause I’m fa­mil­iar with it. But my rec­om­men­da­tions are meant to be adapt­able to any type of prac­tice in any jurisdiction.

That said, this book is not le­gal ad­vice. If what I sug­gest con­flicts with laws or court rules in your ju­ris­dic­tion, ig­nore me and obey the law—obviously.

What qual­i­fies me to write about ty­pog­ra­phy? I have a vi­sual-arts de­gree from Har­vard, where I learned tra­di­tional let­ter­press print­ing and dig­i­tal font de­sign. My ty­po­graphic work is in the per­ma­nent col­lec­tion of the Houghton Li­brary at Har­vard. Af­ter col­lege, I worked as a font de­signer for sev­eral years. I then started a web­site-de­sign stu­dio in San Fran­cisco. Later, I went to law school at UCLA and prac­ticed civil lit­i­ga­tion in Los An­ge­les. These days, I work on a num­ber of writ­ing, de­sign, and soft­ware projects, all cen­tered around ty­pog­ra­phy (in­clud­ing But­t­er­ick’s Prac­ti­cal Ty­pog­ra­phy, a cousin of this book, aimed at a gen­eral audience).

The golden thread con­nect­ing these ac­tiv­i­ties is my af­fec­tion for the printed word. Tech­nol­ogy changes, but the printed word re­mains irreplaceable.

Ty­pog­ra­phy has been a source of en­joy­ment for me for over 25 years. I’m grate­ful that I’ve had this plat­form to share my en­thu­si­asm. Since the first edi­tion of Ty­pog­ra­phy for Lawyers was re­leased, I’ve heard from law­yers, judges, law pro­fes­sors, and stu­dents all over the world about what a dif­fer­ence this ma­te­r­ial has made in their work. I hope that you also find it re­ward­ing, and that it adds sat­is­fac­tion—and maybe even some fun—to your practice.

—Matthew Butterick

In ad­di­tion to writ­ing this book, I also de­signed the fonts that are used through­out—Eq­uityValkyrie, Cen­tury Supra, Con­course, Trip­li­cate, and Ad­vo­cate—which have emerged from my work in le­gal ty­pog­ra­phy. These fonts can be li­censed for your own projects.

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