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MS Word Typography Guide for Lawyers

Lawyers are expert at analyzing evidence and formulating an argument. Most are not as expert at how to correctly format official documents either for archiving or case reading. Layout is important for making documents, reports, and books easier to read while maintaining an air of professionalism.  Here is a quick MS word typography guide for lawyers to make digestion of complex legal writing straightforward.

Don’t Use Arial or Times New Roman

While lawyers should avoid fancy or quirky fonts, there are plenty of choices that do not need to resort to these dated typesets. They have been the mainstay of most documents for decades. That is the problem; their design is from a bygone age and so they look cheap. Their simplicity lacks elegance compared to others. Try Bembo Book, Plantin as replacements for Times New Roman, or Helvetica and Franklin Gothic as great alternatives to Arial.

Full Justification Looks Tidier

One of the advantages of MS Word over the typewriters is the full justification option. With typewriters you could justify left or right for the purpose of letter writing. With Word, you can evenly space typesetting for a flush justification. Each paragraph is a neat block aside, of course, from the last line of it is only a few words long. This looks more professional, and great when printed as an official legal document.

Generous Margins

Never overlook the need for a good margin: around 1.5” (3.8cm), sometimes as much as 2” is better (5cm) unless that takes the document above 50 pages, giving the impression of a needlessly long document. Not only will it provide plenty of space for those who will read it such as judges, it will help them fly through the information and find relevant points later if they need to re-refer to the document (including making personal notes). A 1” margin is too small for the font size and style typically used in legal documents.

Drop the Double Space

One of the earliest lessons that typists were taught when typewriters were the primary medium was to put a double space between a full stop and a new sentence. The reason it was ever a thing was that letters on typewriters were all the same width, but a space was narrower. The double space compensated, creating a large enough gap. That convention changed and now with electronic devices the standard and typewriters virtually extinct, the reason for the double space is gone.

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