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A Tip for Authors or Publishers Who Send Drafts to Others to Read or Review:

Make them as easy to read and carry as possible. Thus,

  1. If it's a book manuscript, send it double-sided, and stapled or otherwise bound, rather than as a thick stack of single-sided pages.

  2. Print it single-spaced with wide margins, like a published work. There's a reason that this is the way journals and books are published, and the reason isn't just saving space -- my sense is that such text is easier to read. Double-spaced text may be useful when you're expecting lots of interlineated comments, but not otherwise.

  3. Use a proportionally spaced font, both for the text and the footnotes, rather than a typewriter font.

Maybe these are just my idiosyncratic reactions -- please let me know if that's so. But I suspect not; it seems to me that the traditional journal/book layout and format is inherently easier to read than the alternatives I recommenda gainst.

Public_Defender (mail):
I think you're right on all points.

I wish judges would change the standard rules for pleadings and briefs to require single-spaced documents with bigger margins. Double spaced pleadings just mean that judges get less-readable material with less information per page. It also means they have to carry around bigger stacks of briefs if they take work home. And it's not as if they're going to send us back an edited copy.

Of course, the judges would have to change page limits, but that's not a big deal.

The only thing about the traditional journal/book layout that I find more difficult to read is full justification. I find the difference in word spacing from line to line to be annoying. I also think jagged edges help guide the reader from one line to the next. But maybe these are just my idiosyncratic reactions.
6.7.2007 9:31pm
Jay Goodman Tamboli (mail) (www):
Use a font like Garamond rather than one like Times. Times was designed for narrow columns, like a newspaper, and Garamond and Bookman fonts are better for wider text. That's why the Supreme Court is going to require New Century Schoolbook.
6.7.2007 9:56pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
They're your idiosyncratic reactions, at least if you're being asked to read it in the sense an editor would, making comments and marking up the document. With the possible exception of using a monospaced font, kerning does help --- but at least a serif font. Double spacing gives room to make comments, reading the recto pages only means less juggling back and forth, and loose pages allow insertion of more extensive notes.
6.7.2007 9:58pm
Miked0268 (mail):
Of course, you're absolutely right. The standard conventions used by book printers have developed over hundreds of years, and they got the way they are for good reasons. (Although, I think the commenter above has a good point about justification. That, I think, can be safely dispensed with).

Sometimes people drive me nuts using all kinds of fancy fonts when generating word processor documents. Here, fonts like the standard Times New Roman, Bookman, etc. were carefully designed and developed by professional printers to be as easily readable as they could make it, and instead of taking advantage of this people go and use some inscrutable faux-handwriting font. Pet peeve.
6.7.2007 10:09pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Charlie: Most of the drafts I refer to are sent to solicit a jacket blurb, a book review, or general comments -- not careful line edits for which space between lines is valuable.
6.7.2007 10:21pm
TRG:
Agree. Especially on single-spacing. easier to keep track of the overall organization.
6.7.2007 11:16pm
Hattio (mail):
What?
Count me in the minority here. Double spacing, and single sided (though I do want it bound somehow) make things much easier to read. It seriously boggles me that someone would think otherwise...but viva la difference.
6.7.2007 11:31pm
GBarto (mail) (www):
After I took a speed reading course in high school, I got very sensitive to what was easy to read at a glance and what wasn't. The short answer: nothing but nothing beats a standard size paperback for skimming.

My favorite feature in modern word processors is the ability to print documents with two pages to each 8 1/2 x 11 sheet - just about paperback size. My colleagues laugh at me and ask if I'm a paper miser, but when corporate sends a 20-page memo, I usually finish reading it about the same time they finish making sure they took the pages off the printer in the right order.

Eugene is 99.9% right. Get rid of the double spacing. Go for the shorter lines. Use a proportional font. But when you're done, send it to me as a PDF and I'll print it the way I want it. Or, failing that, zap me an e-mail and ask me which way I'd prefer to receive it. This is the internet age, isn't it?
6.8.2007 12:20am
K Parker (mail):
You all are sooo 80's. (As in the 1980's.) Send it to me in readable computer format (html, .doc, etc, but not pdf as it doesn't flow to the screen size.)

Why would I want to chop down a bunch of trees just to write a blurb for your book?

Now, if I have to deal with paper, Eugene's suggestions as amended by Public_Defender do produce the most readable result, but really.....
6.8.2007 2:55am
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
I agree with Eugene, and would add two further points:

(1) Use footnotes, not endnotes, and keep figures in place. Endnotes are a huge pain in the neck justified only by primitive publishing technology. There is no excuse for them now, in drafts or in final form. Similarly, having to hunt down separate figures is a distraction for which there is no longer any need.

(2) Do not rely on subtle differences in typography (e.g. italic vs. normal slant), grey level, or color, unless you are really sure that the difference will be readily discernible. I hate maps and charts in which regions are distinguished by grey levels or differences in color that come out as differences in grey level when printed in black and white, in which it is difficult or impossible to make out the intended distinction.
6.8.2007 3:42am
Public_Defender (mail):
You all are sooo 80's. (As in the 1980's.) Send it to me in readable computer format (html, .doc, etc, but not pdf as it doesn't flow to the screen size.)

"Sooo 80's"? I'm practicing in front of judges who are sooo 60's.

Once, I asked a federal clerk whether it would make more sense to submit things single spaced now that everything is filed electronically (and presumably read on a screen). Silly me, she said, they print everything off before they read it.
6.8.2007 7:09am
Steve Lubet (mail):
for jacket blurbs i've always been sent publishers' galleys, which of course are double sided and single spaced.
6.8.2007 8:01am
corneille1640 (mail):
I agree more with Hattio, although I actually don't like it to be bound. As for Bill Poser's suggestion that footnotes are better than endnotes, I say....yes! It's a big pain to have to leaf backwards just to see the author's citation, and with today's word processors, footnoting is so much easier than it was in the day of typewriters. Of course, as someone else mentioned above, it's probably best to ask the reader's preference so as to make it as easier as possible for him or her.
6.8.2007 10:19am
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
No one seems to have thought of 1.5-spacing, which also works well. When I run out of offprints of a published article, I send out copies much like what Eugene recommends, except for the spacing: double-sided, with 1.5-spaced 12-point text, single-spaced 12-point quotations, single-spaced 10-point footnotes (not endnotes), and running headers and footers for pertinent metadata. Example here in PDF format, if anyone wants to judge the readability (the format I mean -- the text will be very obscure to non-Latinists). A lot of people hate PDFs, but if you want to quote Greek or other non-Roman alphabets, it's the only way to make sure the quotations don't come out as gibberish.
6.8.2007 10:36am
EricRasmusen (mail) (www):
I've long been trying to promote easy-to-comment writing in economics (and law, to a much lesser extent). See my
http://rasmusen.org/GI/reader/writing.pdf for lots of advice. Some things I will add here:

1. Put your email, fax, mailing address, phone number on the cover page, to make commenting easier.

2. Write an abstract of one paragraph.

3. Put all figures and tables in the text, not at the end (which, as with endnotes, is good for old-fashioned typesetting but nothing else).

4. Number all your pages and equations.

5. Especially for lawyers and contrary to their conventional style: have a list of references and cases at the end, as well as in footnotes. That way the reader can quickly see if you're missing a key reference or case that he knows about.
6.8.2007 12:11pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):

Charlie: Most of the drafts I refer to are sent to solicit a jacket blurb, a book review, or general comments -- not careful line edits for which space between lines is valuable.


Then you're not reading a draft, I should think. "Galley- The pre-publication copies sent to the author for final proofreading or to reviewers for pre-publication reviews."
6.8.2007 2:31pm
Public_Defender (mail):
Especially for lawyers and contrary to their conventional style: have a list of references and cases at the end, as well as in footnotes. That way the reader can quickly see if you're missing a key reference or case that he knows about.

Having a table of authorties is not contrary to the conventional style, at least conventional brief-writing. Appellate court rules require that attorneys put a table of authorities at the begining of every brief. The style and organization differ from court to court, but with the possible exception of an oddball jurisdiction or two, that's the universal style of appellate briefing.

I admit, though, that footnoting is against the conventional style of attorneys. I hate footnotes in briefs. Every time you have a citation, you have to lose your place in the text to check the footnote to understand the value of the sentence you just read.
6.8.2007 7:27pm
EricRasmusen (mail) (www):
Thanks for the correction. The legal writing I see most is law review writing, which is different and worse than the writing of briefs. That raises a question, though: why are law review articles bloated and lacking in tables of authorities, when appellate briefs are concise and do have such tables?
6.8.2007 8:14pm