Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Document design: double spacing

I dislike double-spacing in legal documents. I require my students to single-space all documents turned in for my class.

But if you single-space a document in Times New Roman 12-point type with 1-inch margins, the text is very crowded and difficult to read: the line lengths are too long.

So I recommend Times New Roman 13-point type and margins of 1.3 inches. See Garner, The Winning Brief, at 265.

Here are some common defenses of double-spacing with my responses:

"My boss requires double-spacing or the court rules require double-spacing."
  • Okay. You have to follow the rules you are given. Don't turn your brain off.
"Double-spacing is more readable."
  • Baloney. Only when compared to a poorly formatted single-spaced document. Generally, double-spacing is horribly unreadable. You can't see the structure of the paragraphs--a good clue that readers often use--because you often have just one paragraph on a page. You have to fly past all that extra white space between lines, and this white space serves no design function, unlike purposeful white space that can aid the reader. And think about the nonlegal reading you do every day: books, newspapers, magazines. Are any of them double-spaced? And you can read them just fine.
"Double-spacing leaves room to make comments and notes on the page."
  • Yes, but I don't write on the page with a pencil or pen anymore. I require my students to submit papers electronically, and I use the comment function on my word processor to insert comments into the text. I do the same for the lawyers I tutor on legal writing. It works very well.

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