Let’s talk about four kinds of formatting used and misused in legal documents: all-caps, typefaces, boldface, and underlining.
(1) Underlining was used for years for case names and for emphasis because of typewriter limitations
. I’m still surprised by the number of lawyers who still underline cases instead of italicizing them. Italics may also be used for emphasis but don’t overdo it.
(2) Typefaces (fonts) affect the readability of your work.
The consensus is that you should use serif fonts for text and sans-serif fonts for headings. Serif has the little squiggles such as the y in happy. Sans-serif is more block-like. The Seventh Circuit’s seven-page Requirements and Suggestions for Typography in Briefs and Other Papers
recommends any serif font for text that has the word “book” in it. (This is a great overview of document design and may be found at http://www.ca7.uscourts.gov/
I use Bookman Old Style, Century Schoolbook, and Book Antigua all of which were included in Word for Mac. Many writers simply default to Times New Roman because that is their default font in their word-processing program. Times New Roman is a newspaper font that is shorter and more difficult to read in longer documents. Remember, most of your readers are older and may have difficulty reading. Make it easy for them.
(3) All-caps for emphasis or for titles and headings in legal documents is another hangover from typewriters
. Two problems: it’s harder to read and IT LOOKS LIKE YOU’RE SHOUTING AT YOUR READER.
has a great suggestion for briefs and legal documents.