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Practical Typography
August 20, 2013 9:09 AM   Subscribe

Practical Typography "For all those who need to com­mu­ni­cate clear­ly and even add a mod­icum of aes­thet­ic val­ue to their mes­sages, this pub­li­ca­tion pro­vides every­thing you al­ways want­ed to ask but didn’t know how to." [via]
posted by dhruva (63 comments total) 90 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is the same guy that wrote Typography for Lawyers. I'm not even remotely a lawyer, but that book has been totally useful for learning me exciting new word processing tricks.
posted by oceanjesse at 9:12 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Copperplate is a nov­el­ty de­sign that’s over­stayed its wel­come by forty or fifty years. It re­mains pop­u­lar on the sign­age and menus of busi­ness­es that want to sig­nal “we’re classy and ex­pen­sive, in a retro way.” Trust me—it’s not working.

Oh, amen
posted by iotic at 9:25 AM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


When I saw the first <span style="…"> in the source, I knew it could not be beautiful.
posted by scruss at 9:30 AM on August 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Obeying the age-old rule that looks must trump usability, I had to scroll all the way to the bottom of this before I realized I was looking at clickable links, not a webified PDF.
posted by DU at 9:31 AM on August 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Oh man and the "one space between sentences" has an example, after which is says "see the problem?" Yes, the single spaced one is harder to read. It's a giant wall of gray, or as the book puts it the "white space balance" is undisrupted.
posted by DU at 9:33 AM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Obeying the age-old rule that looks must trump usability...

Age old? My typography classes always emphasized function over form. The type was in-service to the message. Of course, that was long before everything went to hell in the 80's.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:38 AM on August 20, 2013


To represent my post more artistically, I declined to follow the standard of following my remark with a "hamburger".
posted by DU at 9:40 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh man and the "one space between sentences" has an example, after which is says "see the problem?" Yes, the single spaced one is harder to read.

I don't have a horse in this race, so please take this as mere curiosity: have you ever read a book, or any large publication, that didn't single space between sentences?
posted by mcoo at 9:43 AM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Well, I did once hire a developer pretty much because the typography on his CV screamed LaTeX, and who writes their CV in LaTeX? Good coders...
posted by alasdair at 9:45 AM on August 20, 2013 [34 favorites]


this is a pretty bad example of web usability, as DU says. Which is a shame as he is a wealth of knowledge for print
posted by iotic at 9:46 AM on August 20, 2013


Can't speak to the content yet, but it kinda looks like a sales pitch for the designer's fonts. And information on why their fonts are so good. Not that it makes him wrong automatically, but it has to inform his advice.

On the other hand, he recommends one spaces after a sentence, so perhaps he can be trusted after all.
posted by pwnguin at 9:46 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


...have you ever read a book, or any large publication, that didn't single space between sentences?

To tell you the truth, I have no idea. I've never measured it. I'll take the book's word for it that they are all single. Nonetheless, in those two examples, the "right" way is clearly the wrong way. Maybe it's the screen vs paper, maybe it's the size of the text.
posted by DU at 9:46 AM on August 20, 2013


This is a good doc; thanks for posting. As an amateur font enthusiast, the parts I found most useful are where the author explains why you should do certain things, like use curly braces. Other admonitions, like how you can­not ever cre­ate good ty­pog­ra­phy with Arial, are less useful because they are presented without any explanations.
posted by Triplanetary at 9:59 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I like this. I especially like how Butterick provides examples of useful fonts, such as his own Equity and Concourse, starting at $90. And he describes the intricate details of typography, like the elegant serifs of Equity, $120. Or the importance of balancing neutrality and aesthetic interest, such as the lovely geometric/humanist blend of Concourse, only $90 for the basic package. I especially like that he proposes alternatives for overused fonts, in which we learn that Concourse is a phenomenal substitute for Arial, Helvetica, Verdana, Calibri, Futura, Garamond, Papyrus, and your own handwriting.

(I do sincerely like this, and I think it's fine for him to talk about his work, but he's pushing his stuff a little hard.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:59 AM on August 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


There are some pretty fundamental contradictions in his basic philosophy--they are, of course, widely embraced contradictions among typography enthusiasts, but that, in some ways, only makes them more annoying. For example, he's very keen on the notion that there are "rules" and if you choose to flout them because you happen to personally prefer the look on individual aesthetic grounds you're essentially in the position of someone who is inventing an idiosyncratic English grammar at the cost of general comprehensibility. Font size must be so-and-so, font size to line space ratio must be such-and-such etc. etc. But then when it comes to choosing a font, if you choose Times New Roman it proves that you're just a brain-dead ditto-head. Times New Roman is verboten! Why? Because it's a bad font that breaks the "rules"? Because it wasn't designed by a real font designer? No, it's a perfectly fine font that was designed by a real font designer, but it's bad and evil and wrong because it's ubiquitous. Font choice must be an expression of your individuality! It must show your aesthetic singularity! Damn convention, damn the obvious gains in ease of use generated by familiarity!

In the end, most of the appeals typographers make to functionality are profoundly short on evidence. They are simply rationalizing personal aesthetic preferences.
posted by yoink at 10:02 AM on August 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


Extrapolating one guy's webpage into being representative of the arrogant, overbearing voice of all typographers is a bit of a stretch. Yeah, there are "rules" in typography. They are, as with "rules" in any other creative field, the benchmarks that are established (in typography's case, over the course of a few centuries) as good places to start and learn the craft.

Details like point size, line spacing, etc. are always up to one's preference depending on content and font choice, etc. But, people starting out, need some guidelines, and that's all these are. Once you get your bearings, feel free to branch out. My experience is that much of good typography ends up being a function of the eye. You learn to see and feel the right balances. But, you have to start somewhere, and the "rules", such as they are, set reasonable base conditions, from which one can adjust. So, yes, typography is subject to personal aesthetics. Otherwise, you just set it and forget it, and one typographer would be as good as any other. But, as I said, there are "rules" from which we all started. They are the "Hello, world." of the craft. Start here, then learn why and when to expand. Or, think of them as the basic chords on a guitar. Learn these, then explore.

I'm certainly not down with everything he has to say. But, I've been working with type for well over 30 years now, and I recognize a lot of good, solid lessons in what he's written. It's, generally, a good condensation of a lot of things a beginning typographer should understand.

This slagging of professionals as being ego-driven for simply sharing their experience and knowledge is getting old. I realize we're basking in this new age of hobbyists, makers, amateurs and DIYers, but FFS. It's like anyone who has actually made a living doing something over the years is to be automatically deep-discounted.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:40 AM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Skip this and read The Elements of Typographic Style. The 20th anniversary edition was just published a few months ago.
posted by oulipian at 10:43 AM on August 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


When placing beans on your plate, one must ensure that the beans are uniform and spaced equally, with one bean-space between each bean, not two. Beans should be pointed up, not down. Use non-standard beans, like Adzuki, not Red kidney, which have been over used and should have been phased out decades ago.
posted by Muddler at 10:47 AM on August 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


Extrapolating one guy's webpage into being representative of the arrogant, overbearing voice of all typographers is a bit of a stretch.

I'm not; I'm recognizing him as similar to the many other "you're doing it wrong" screeds I've read by many other typographers and amateur typographical enthusiasts of his ilk. There's precisely zero "extrapolation" at work here. Had he written "you know, here are some guidelines you might find useful when you're starting out as rules of thumb that seem to work for many people" then my comment would have been "well, this is a refreshing change from the hectoring tone adopted by most typographers writing these kinds of guides."
posted by yoink at 10:48 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The reason to use or not use Times New Roman is better understood as relating to what it's overuse and association with Microsoft add to what it signifies. Here's a clever and appropriate use of Times New Roman given that knowledge.
posted by iotic at 10:55 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


yoink, I'm as skeptical as many when it comes to the "evidence-based claims" made by those working in design fields, but I think you've constructed a strawman argument. Looking beyond TNR has nothing to do with individuality for its own sake; it's about appropriateness. Butterick is simply stating that we should modulate our tone of voice depending on who we're talking to and what we're saying. Automatically choosing TNR is the visual equivalent of speaking in monotone without consideration for the context of the communication.
posted by quosimosaur at 11:03 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The reason to use or not use Times New Roman is better understood as relating to what it's overuse and association with Microsoft add to what it signifies.

The "association with Microsoft" is neither interesting, meaningful nor significant to me when it comes to a font designed for The Times of London in 1931. And citing "overuse" as an argument not to use Times New Roman is simply incoherent unless you're also going to argue against all other "conventions" in typography on the grounds of their "overuse." It is simply silly to argue on the one hand "you must put a single space between sentences BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT EVERYBODY DOES!" and on the other hand argue "you mustn't use Times New Roman BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT EVERYBODY DOES!"
posted by yoink at 11:04 AM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I use 1.5 spaces after sentences because I can reach across the aisle in a bipartisan fashion.

However, Muddler's dismissal of the Red Kidney bean as an effective plate legume is clearly the rantings of a lunatic. A goddamned lunatic.
posted by mcstayinskool at 11:06 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


The "association with Microsoft" is neither interesting, meaningful nor significant to me when it comes to a font designed for The Times of London in 1931.

Are you saying history can't inform aesthetics? I'm finding it hard to find an actual rational argument in what you're saying, yoink.
posted by iotic at 11:10 AM on August 20, 2013


Other admonitions, like how you can­not ever cre­ate good ty­pog­ra­phy with Arial, are less useful because they are presented without any explanations

Also, wrong. Arial is better looking than Helvetica.

There. I said it. Feels good.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:12 AM on August 20, 2013


Butterick is simply stating that we should modulate our tone of voice depending on who we're talking to and what we're saying.

I don't see that anywhere in his piece--can you point me to the passage I'm missing? I just went through his descriptions of the fonts he likes; nowhere does he suggest that they have particularly "appropriate" uses ("this is a good font for bioscience, but I prefer this font for humanities"). And so far as I can see his sole argument against TNR (excepting some minor reservations about the thinness of its bold style and some unspecified reservations about its italics) is that "everyone uses it." And, again, for the things he likes, "everyone uses it" is an argument--a decisive argument--in their favor.
posted by yoink at 11:13 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


A font being massively overused and having bad associations is an entirely valid reason not to use it in a given context. This is aesthetics, not mathematics.
posted by iotic at 11:16 AM on August 20, 2013


Are you saying history can't inform aesthetics?

No, I'm saying that "ooga boogo Micro$oft!!!" is not an interesting or relevant historical argument. If the font had been the favorite font of the Nazi party and used on every single official document, that would be a powerful historical argument. That a very common font--one that was common because it was designed for an used by one of the world's most famous newspapers--happened to be among the fonts distributed with MS-Word strikes me as inevitable and utterly without interesting historical significance.
posted by yoink at 11:17 AM on August 20, 2013


This is aesthetics, not mathematics.

Then don't pretend there are "rules" that are analogous to the rules of grammar.
posted by yoink at 11:18 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


There only seems to be one person going Ooga Booga around here, and I'm guessing he's not a type design professional. Doesn't your knee hurt from all that jerking? :)
posted by iotic at 11:21 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Then don't pretend there are "rules" that are analogous to the rules of grammar.

Seems to me they be entirely analogous.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:23 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fair enough, I do think he could've made a better argument. But I would still argue that single spacing is about standards while choice of typeface is about appropriateness. At the moment, I honestly can't explain why this distinction exists (forgive me it's late) but I know that the distinction applies to spoken language, written language and printed language.
posted by quosimosaur at 11:25 AM on August 20, 2013


This is the same guy that wrote Typography for Lawyers.

This basically is Typography for Lawyers, just repurposed for a broader audience.
posted by stopgap at 11:25 AM on August 20, 2013


Times New Roman and Arial are both perfectly fine fonts, and they look perfectly fine if you treat them well. People only think they look bad because they associated them with all-caps centered text in a single size for the whole page, which people do when they don't care about how it looks, which is when they stick with the default font. Mind your spacing and sizes and alignments and they're dandy, if somewhat boring.
posted by echo target at 11:26 AM on August 20, 2013


There is some good, useful info here. There are time-tested ideals that govern proportion and readability -font choice, point sizes, line heights, line lengths, etc. There are times to break the rules, but the basic rules will always serve you well in a pinch.

That said, he definitely flogs his own fonts too hard. And, regardless of his opinion, Minion is actually a pretty fine font.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 11:35 AM on August 20, 2013


> It is simply silly to argue on the one hand "you must put a single space between sentences BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT EVERYBODY DOES!" and on the other hand argue "you mustn't use Times New Roman BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT EVERYBODY DOES!"

I don't think that's true, any more than The Elements of Style is silly for prescribing a standard set of grammar/usage rules but also exhorting its readers to avoid clichés.1

I will admit that it's sometimes tiresome to hear typographers slag off fonts simply because of association — I sighed a bit to discover Butterick ranting about Minion as though it were no better than Comic Sans. But the message, simply put, is that default fonts are ubiquitous. If you feel that typography is important you'll probably want to stray from the default.

1 The Elements of Style is silly, but for different reasons.
posted by savetheclocktower at 11:42 AM on August 20, 2013


Links are not underlined in these pages unless you hover over them. That's a big strike against him and his arguments right there.

Using professional fonts instead of system fonts (ew), which frequently are not cheap, strikes me as classist. Not everyone has cash to pop on typefaces. I notice his alternatives are never, never free fonts. Many of the pay fonts are his. Sure, lots of free fonts are crap, but it doesn't change the fact that a lot of this resolves down to pay $90+ for this or that TTF file, and lots of us don't have it.

As for single-spacing sentences: I admit it, I double-space between sentences as a habit. But most of what I write goes on the web, and web browsers remove those extra spaces anyway. And once in a while double-spacing has helped me, like by allowing me to search for intra-paragraph sentence endings. I still shouldn't do it, but most of the time my text looks hardly different when I do it or not, even in print.
posted by JHarris at 11:43 AM on August 20, 2013


Hmm having thought about it more, I see your point. The line between common standard and appropriateness is fairly arbitrary. Personally, I have no trouble adjusting between most professionally designed fonts that have been properly typeset. It's certainly a non-issue compared to jumping from double spaced sentence to double spaced sentence. In most cases, a period doesn't deserve the visual weight of a double space.
posted by quosimosaur at 11:44 AM on August 20, 2013


Oh, but I like the Th ligature.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 11:50 AM on August 20, 2013


I saw this yesterday and I've enjoyed reading it. I think it's a bit unfair to criticize the font-selling too harshly. Maybe the tone could be better, but the sales of his font are meant to fund the ongoing support of this project. He's trying to make a web-based book available for free without advertising. I'd much rather see someone sell their work directly than rely on click-the-monkey web garbage.

Also, it's really, really hard to discuss aesthetics, while having an opinion, and not sounding terribly snotty about it. I agree that he could express those opinions with more grace, but I'm willing to overlook it because I know I am an insufferable snob about certain things.

This is a great resource an I'm going to make my fellow devs read it
posted by device55 at 11:51 AM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


DU: Obeying the age-old rule that looks must trump usability, I had to scroll all the way to the bottom of this before I realized I was looking at clickable links, not a webified PDF.

You mean you don't randomly click around on webpages to find Easter eggs? I mean, I've never found any, but I keep hoping.

Anyway, if you move your cursor around the page, you'll notice that the links become underlined when your cursor hovers over them, and your icon changes. At that point, you might realize everything is a link on the front page.

I'll give you that it's a bit trickier on other pages, but part of the design of the site, as described on the How To Pay For This Book page, is as an experiment in online book-publishing. On that page, text in ALL CAPS are links. At this point, I would suggest changing the font color to indicate links, if the typical underlined link is too distracting while reading.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:52 AM on August 20, 2013


But underlining links is a time-honored web tradition, and makes it clear that text is linked. There is no reason to do it otherwise except to be fancy, which goes completely against the point of the rest of the site, which is generally that things are done a certain way for darn good reasons and stray from them at your peril. Making users figure things out is bad. Okay for typography, but bad for web design?
posted by JHarris at 11:59 AM on August 20, 2013


But underlining links is a time-honored web tradition, and makes it clear that text is linked.

It's sad how you've never managed to follow any of the content linked to by this very community weblog.

You can make the argument that Butterick's choice of style for links isn't distinctive enough (I know of his penchant for small caps from reading Typography for Lawyers, so I guessed what he was on to) but there's no way you can claim that underlining links is still the accepted standard.
posted by sparklemotion at 12:05 PM on August 20, 2013


I loved Typography for Lawyers, and I like this site. I also approve of his fonts' prices, which still seem expensive but are much more reasonable than what else I've seen. Previously he recommended Lyon Text, which is a beautiful looking font—and if it sold for $39 for individual use, I'd have bought it years ago. I'd have recommended it to all my lawyer pals. And I'll bet other lawyers would have done the same. But I'm not spending $325 on a font. That's just absurd. So I don't use Lyon Text.

But I do have a bone to pick with Butterick. When he first erected the Typography for Lawyers website, he complained that lawyers were using Courier for no reason and no court required monospaced fonts. If I recall correctly the website was set up blog-style to accept comments, so I posted, and pointed him to the Massachusetts appellate rule requiring a monospaced font such as Courier. (Politely, yes.) My comment was deleted, and he didn't correct the info.

For that reason, I take his factual assertions with a grain of salt. But I appreciate his site(s) and find them useful. He's a smart guy and I think his information is presented well.
posted by cribcage at 12:05 PM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Why doesn't he teach people to use LaTeX while he's at it?
posted by overeducated_alligator at 12:26 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's sad how you've never managed to follow any of the content linked to by this very community weblog.

1. Not underlining links isn't a gigantic deal, so long as you aren't making arguments about legibility, not doing crazy things just because, and sending signals your readers will understand. Using SMALL CAPS to signal links is definitely novel.
2. Metafilter doesn't underline links? They look underlined to me...? Maybe it's a setting I made long ago and forgot about.
posted by JHarris at 12:38 PM on August 20, 2013


Bookman evokes the Ford ad­min­is­tra­tion. If fonts were cloth­ing, this would be the cor­duroy suit.

That hurts me deeply, because I started using Bookman (rub-off letters, with swash because of its cool lower-case w) during the Carter Adminstration, and have never given up my love for the ol' face. In the '90s, I rediscovered its Microsoft (Old Style) version in Office and convinced an entire billing department to use it for invoices instead of Times because... READABILITY (especially aligning columns of numbers). Still, that now adds "associated with MS" to its previous sins, and yes, one of the few institutions still using it (with swash) for a logo is the Heritage Foundation. But I will never give up on you Bookman! (look at that lower-case w)
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:42 PM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


one of the few institutions still using it (with swash) for a logo is the Heritage Foundation.

Old Bookman is the Koch brothers' gift to the world AND IF WE FAIL TO ENJOY IT IT WILL BE ON OUR HEADS.
posted by JHarris at 12:46 PM on August 20, 2013


Maybe it's a setting I made long ago and forgot about.

It's a setting.
posted by Justinian at 12:52 PM on August 20, 2013


2. Metafilter doesn't underline links? They look underlined to me...? Maybe it's a setting I made long ago and forgot about.

I just looked, it is a setting in preferences. I'm relatively new here, so I don't remember their ever being a time before the pretty yellow on blue links (but I can believe that such a time once existed).
posted by sparklemotion at 12:52 PM on August 20, 2013


Of course you mean the pretty blue on white links.
posted by echo target at 12:55 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Metafilter doesn't underline links? They look underlined to me...? Maybe it's a setting I made long ago and forgot about.

Nope, Metafilter doesn't underline by default. Try looking at it while logged out. It's a checkbox under Preferences.

Google, Amazon, Yahoo, The New York Times, and Facebook all don't underline links these days (at least not until you mouse over). Color is certainly a more common way to indicate links than small caps, but arguing that underlining is the clear standard way to go is no longer accurate.
posted by JiBB at 12:59 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The layout with all the glare-blinding whitespace gave me real difficulties with reading this and what I did read was mostly bullshit
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:12 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would be interested in joeclark's take on this.
posted by scruss at 2:18 PM on August 20, 2013


I saw this earlier and it seemed like a pretty good introduction to the basics of typography. I noticed that he was selling fonts and it seemed pretty transparent to me that some of the fonts he was recommending were his own, but as a resource it is useful and there was no need or even pressure to purchase his fonts.

I'm not calling out anyone specifically, but I do feel like there are conflicting tendencies to say on the one hand, "hey (newspaper, record label, etc.) your problem is that you're clinging to an old business model if you get with the times and offer something of value, you can find a way to be profitable" and on the other hand, pretty much any attempt to monetize something (ads, subscription, promoting the fonts you sell) gets criticized. I don't understand how anyone can make a living doing anything information-based when these two tendencies are so prevalent.

I find it hard to imagine a less-objectionable business model than "let me make a free online resource that everyday people can use to learn more about typography, and hopefully some people, after learning the basics of typography will appreciate my fonts and buy them because they want to use them."

I mean, I'm not buying his fonts because I'm broke and I have hundreds of pirated fonts, so I'm part of the problem, but I am not turned off by him selling fonts and I wish him well. It's like hating a band for having CDs for sale at a free concert.
posted by snofoam at 3:01 PM on August 20, 2013


Using professional fonts instead of system fonts (ew), which frequently are not cheap, strikes me as classist. Not everyone has cash to pop on typefaces. I notice his alternatives are never, never free fonts. Many of the pay fonts are his. Sure, lots of free fonts are crap, but it doesn't change the fact that a lot of this resolves down to pay $90+ for this or that TTF file, and lots of us don't have it.

To be fair, his system fonts page does grade all of the available system fonts into better-and-worse categories, including whether they are suitable for body text. He also provides classic font Charter for free on the site. And also, I'm not entirely surprised that a typographer views the world through a lens that suggests "professional fonts" as a solution to every problem; go to the health food store and ask whether you should bother eating organic veggies.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 6:13 PM on August 20, 2013


cribcage: pointed him to the Massachusetts appellate rule requiring a monospaced font such as Courier

Can you post it here? Can you share any other typographical obligations in legal documents?
posted by kandinski at 6:25 PM on August 20, 2013


Well, I did once hire a developer pretty much because the typography on his CV screamed LaTeX, and who writes their CV in LaTeX? Good coders...

I use troff, though I'm not at all sure what that implies.
posted by 23 at 7:25 PM on August 20, 2013


Can you post it here? Can you share any other typographical obligations in legal documents?

Massachusetts Appellate Procedure Rule 20(a)(2) requires, "The typeface [for all briefs] shall be a monospaced font (such as pica type produced by a typewriter or a Courier font produced by a computer word processor) of 12 point or larger size and not exceeding 10.5 characters per inch."

Butterick talks about monospaced fonts here, and I think that's the current revision of the page I was talking about earlier. I'm fairly certain he had a previous revision citing several states' rules not requiring monospaced fonts, but as above, Massachusetts does require it at the appellate level. (At the trial level, you can do whatever. I've seen attorneys submit handwritten memoranda. Sometimes they're admonished, sometimes not.)

Rhode Island, by contrast, eschews monospacing and instead requires Times New Roman: "Unless authorized by order of the Court, pursuant to a party's written motion, all papers filed with the Court shall be eight and one-half (8 1/2) by eleven (11) inches and double spaced, using Times New Roman font and at least 12 as the font size; footnotes are to be single spaced and also use Times New Roman font and at least 12 as the font size. Any papers failing to comply with the foregoing requirements shall be rejected."

If you're interested in other states, you can poke around Google using the terms [court rules]. The Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure are especially fun; here's a look at a Certificate of Compliance with Rule 32(a). Sometimes you're required to put page numbers on the right side of the page, sometimes you're required to center them. Sometimes footnotes have the same minimum font size as body text, other times you're permitted to make them smaller.

There are various reasons for these rules. The big two are consistency and page limits. The former is largely for judges: they have a lot of reading to do, and it's easier if their eyes aren't constantly adjusting from this font to that one to some other. And the second is because (bad) attorneys will go to crazy lengths to bypass page limits. There are absolutely attorneys who would submit papers in 5-point font if they were allowed to. (SPOILER: Those papers would not actually get read.)

Sometimes I get creative with fonts for out-of-court documents. I like Butterick's recommendations, plus Rawlinson and a few other fonts. But I don't have a lot of discretion for what I submit to courts, and mostly I think that's fine. See above re consistency. Readability is susceptible to scale; what works for a two-page letter may prove impractical across thousands of pages of arguments. And that's what most judges are reading, even if I only submitted ten.
posted by cribcage at 7:29 PM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


What, no love for Souvenir Demi? Also, Goudy Handtooled rocks!
posted by DesbaratsDays at 5:51 AM on August 21, 2013


Use curly quotation marks, not straight ones
This person is so utterly, terribly wrong that I can't even. Single-space after period does not make up for this offense.
posted by slogger at 9:11 AM on August 21, 2013


I am curious about why you would hate curly quotes so much? Outside of a coding perspective (and I could even see an argument to be made for having the opening and closing delimiters for strings being different), aren't straight marks just laziness?
posted by sparklemotion at 9:36 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


cribcage: thanks!
posted by kandinski at 4:20 AM on August 24, 2013


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