Rules geeks also tend to be typography geeks. It’s no wonder, then, that I adore Typography for Lawyers. This lovely website is chock full of suggestions for making your briefs more readable, and yes, just plain more beautiful. Sadly, the site correctly points out that one does not really have much leeway when it comes to briefs filed in the Florida appellate courts — your choices are Times New Roman or Courier, and that’s it — but it does contain many important points on basic typography. I knew I would agree with the site when I saw Lesson One. Straight quotes are my big pet peeve, right up there with people using the open single quote mark when they mean to use an apostrophe. (OK, the open single quote for apostrophe is worse. But barely. And I firmly blame Microsoft Word for much of this problem in the world).
Most of the lessons here I learned in college, when I took a magazine publishing class. One of my text books was a small softback called The Mac is Not a Typewriter. I am sure it is painfully out of date as far as its statements about the use of a 15 year old Macintosh computer are concerned. But the typography lessons I learned from that book and in that class were timeless.
Am I able to implement all of those lessons in every brief? No. For example, I agree that one should use a single space after a period when using a proportional font, but because most people don’t agree, I am always told things look wrong if I do it that way, and I have just stopped fighting the tide on that one. (I wish I could walk the walk on my own blog, but the reality is, that double-space is just too ingrained in my hands right now to go back and forth). But knowing the right way, even if you make a conscious choice not to follow it, is far better than laboring along in ignorance. So check it out.