Document Style

Pay attention to how these pages look. Which is more inviting to read?

In the last 15 or 20 years, document designers have developed a set of guidelines for creating text that's both inviting and readable.

  • Avoid all-capital letters. THEIR UNIFORM SIZE MAKES THEM NOTORIOUSLY HARD TO READ. Small letters have tops and tails that give them distinctive shapes.
  • Avoid underlining. It's a hangover from the days of typewriters. To add emphasis, use italics or boldface.
  • For text (as opposed to headings), prefer a serif typeface like Times New Roman or Garamond. Serifs are the little strokes (lines or curves) at the top and bottom of a letter.
  • Use at least 12-point type, and never less than 10-point.
  • Use left headings, not centered headings. Put them in boldface. Do not underline them. If you have subheadings, use a smaller-sized boldface or boldface italics.
  • Used a ragged right margin unless the document is professionally typeset.
  • Use lists and bullets. If the items have no rank order, prefer bullets.
  • In lists and bullets, use hanging indents. That is, do not bring a second line back any farther than the first word in the first line.

Joseph Kimble, Lifting the Fog of Legaease, 151-152 (2006).

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