Font Size Does Matter
I am always amazed at the amount of information I receive at the NALS Annual Education Conferences. One of the things that really stuck with me from the conference I attended in Portland was a name that perfectly describes something I see a lot—Frankenbrief. A Frankenbrief is a brief that has had many people working on different parts of it and then it is all put together into one document. There are many problems with a Frankenbrief, including the flow of the document from so many different styles of writing by different authors, consistency with defined words and capitalization, justification issues, and different font sizes. When working on a Frankenbrief, you should automatically check the big things like the defined terms and consistency issues, but it is also important to check the little things, including justification or non-justification (being consistent with author preference) for each separate paragraph and font size. There may be just a slight difference between 12-point and 13-point font, but someone who looks at a lot of typed documents (like a judge or a law clerk) can tell when there are different font sizes. If you get a judge who is a real stickler who might find some 12-point font mixed in with the 13-point font required by the court rules, the possibility does exist that he or she would not accept your document and reject it as deficient because of the font size. It is just one more thing that makes a difference and shows the reader that you are paying attention to the details that will make their task of reading your document just a little bit easier.
Also while we are talking about fonts, do not assume that all courts are now using 13-point font. If there is one thing I have learned from ECF filings in many different courts, it is that there is no “common” rule about anything. Even federal courts in the same state differ on rules such as font size and courtesy copies to judges. You need to review the local rules for the jurisdictions you are working in. I usually make a checklist of the things I need to remember in order to format a document to be filed outside of my local court. Actually, I have checklists for those courts too since I electronically file in several jurisdictions and do not always trust my memory with those details. It makes it easier to confirm details such as if your font size is correct, that you do or do not use the word “[Proposed]” with Orders, and that you deliver the judge’s courtesy copy in the correct format.
Details such as the size of font really do matter. A document that switches size or style of font throughout a document is difficult to read and detracts from the actual message in the brief. It is not difficult to make it easy for your reader to comprehend what your lawyer is telling them if they do not have to struggle with how your document looks overall.
Kathy Sieckman, PP, PLS-SC, ACP, has been a member of NALS for over 30 years, is the current President of NALS of Phoenix, and is the Vice Chair of the NALS Editorial Board. Kathy has a blog on proofreading tips at http://proofthatblog.com. If you have specific grammar issues you would like covered in future issues, please send them to Kathy at firstname.lastname@example.org.