The last post covered why a brief’s appearance matters. This one discusses the mandatory requirements and how South Carolina’s recommended form for an appellate brief suggests bad typography.
Rule 267, SCACR, governs a document’s form. The typographical rules are few: type size must be standard 12-point or larger, the text must be double-spaced, and the left margin must be an inch and a half. To supplement this rule, the Court has issued a form that may be followed. Appellate Form 13 This form is recommended but not required. Rule 270, SCACR.
There are at least five good reasons not to follow it.
THE FORM CONTAINS ALL CAPS. STUDIES SHOW THAT ALL CAPS IS THE LEAST LEGIBLE OF ALL WRITING. Robbins, Painting With Print, 2 J. Ass’n Legal Writing Directors 108, 115-118 (2004). In her treatise, Chief Justice Toal recommends against using all caps even though the recommended form suggests it. Toal, Vafai, and Muckenfuss, Appellate Practice in South Carolina (2d ed. 2002) at 231.
The form next underlines case names. Matthew Butterick, author of Typography for Lawyers, states that one should never underline because it makes the text harder to read. The Seventh Circuit agrees that underlines text interferes with reading and impairs comprehension. Seventh Circuit Guidelines on Typography.
Thirdly, the form is written in Times New Roman. There is nothing inherently wrong with Times New Roman, and it is certainly better than monospaced fonts that give the text an obsolete typewriter look. But Times New Roman was designed for newspapers that print relatively short articles in narrow columns. For briefs, the Seventh Circuit recommends Century and other fonts designed for books. Seventh Circuit Guidelines on Typography. Rule 33(b) of the United States Supreme Court Rules requires a font in the Century family.
The South Carolina form also places two spaces after each period. Years ago, a boss scolded me for only placing one space after a period. He was wrong. As a blogger recently noted, the Chicago Manual of Style, the Seventh Circuit, and others agree that only one space follows a period.
Lastly, the official form sets off paragraphs with both full tab indentions and extra spacing between paragraphs. Using both is a mistake. The Seventh Circuit adds that the first-line indention for a paragraph should only be a 1/4 inch or less rather than the width of a full tab. Seventh Circuit Guidelines on Typography. Bryan Gardner, Editor of Black’s Law Dictionary, agrees. Gardner, The Winning Brief (2d Ed. 2004) at Tip 67.