research memos

Bigger margins, smaller point size, tighter line spacing

The prob­lems that afflict research memos also afflict other long doc­u­ments like set­tle­ment agree­ments and contracts. You can adapt this recipe for any of them.

My legal-writ­ing teacher in law school required memos to be for­mat­ted using clas­sic type­writer habits—one-inch mar­gins on all sides, 12-point font, dou­ble-spaced lines. Because of its gen­e­sis in type­writ­ten doc­u­ments, this for­mat is often the basis of insti­tu­tional doc­u­ment-lay­out rules. Many courts, for instance, require fil­ings to be in some vari­a­tion of this for­mat.

But have you ever seen a book, news­pa­per, or mag­a­zine that uses this lay­out? No. Why not? Because it’s not opti­mally leg­i­ble. So why would any­one use it? Because it suits the severely lim­ited capa­bil­i­ties of the type­writer. So if we don’t use type­writ­ers any­more, why does every­one still use this lay­out?

My thoughts exactly.