One of the nice things about being active in bar work is that you get to meet really talented lawyers who are used to giving their time and talent back to the profession in the form of speaking or writing on topics that help all of us.
One example I met this year on the campaign trail is Dallas appellate lawyer Scott Stolley, who recently wrote an article for the Dallas Bar Association's Headnotes Crafting Snappy Captions (go to p. 14) that I thought did a good job not only encapsulating the things I wish I did more regularly when writing, but gave me numerous new ideas.
There is advice on choices as far as type fonts and sizes - for example, did you know that letter recognition is easier if the letters vary in height? I did not. Or that "large and small caps" add dignity? I always thought they did, but I thought it was just me and I was a little nervous to say it out loud. And Scott and I agree that exotic fonts are an abomination because ... of course.
Scott also covers issue captions, factual captions and argument captions, which I just generally refer to as the bolded parts that break up long stretches of text when I get embarrassed at how much I've written. But there are cool rules here too. For example, always use regular letters (not caps), make it a sentence, and don't use initial caps because They Make Your Writing Appear Stilted. Who knew? And don't underline them because - again - it affects readability. See what he means? I did not know this stuff.
And here's a neat suggestion - the captions should "imply a benefit if the court keeps reading." I don't think he means starting each caption with "Wherefore, premises considered" but that'd be a great benefit according to most judges I've talked to. He also points out that good captions help make your table of contents look good and read even better, and some judges actually rely on the contents to get an overview of the brief.
When it comes to levels of captions, Scott hews to the Modified Garner school, suggesting bold Arabic with slightly enhanced font size, followed by capital letters in bold face, then parentheticized (which might be a word, but spell check says isn't) Arabic in bold italics, followed by small letters in parentheses. If you go below that, Scott agrees with me that you've done something wrong. He also suggests not using Roman numerals because they're "stuffy". Ouch.
Finally, Scott provides some good advice on white space, including the way that different rules for text and caption over on the right side of the page can make the brief more readable. This reminded me of something similar Alan Flusser has said about the way that the right combination of shirt, jacket and tie can be more than the sum of the individual parts, with empty space sometimes doing as much as pattern or texture to enhance the appearance.
Scott's observation on the aesthetics of the brief teaches us something similar - that the tailoring of your brief - because that's what this is - can enhance its content, and white space plays the same important role on the page (or screen) that silence does when speaking.
All in all, a good article. I highly recommend it.