Copywriter, technical writer, translator (FR>EN, ES>EN, IT>EN), journalist

Great document layout tips

I recently wrote a yet-to-be-published article that sprouted from an observation: legal documents, when compared to documents from Adobe, Inc., often look horrid.

There’s no good reason for any document to be difficult to read, so I wrote about how important it is for lawyers to improve the layout of their documents. Unfortunately, I didn’t interview Matthew Butterick.

Butterick, a Los Angeles-based graphic designer and lawyer (yes, I also had to read that twice) wrote Typography for Lawyers. He makes a number of great points, but here’s a tip sheet I read in an article about his efforts to educate lawyers (non-lawyers could use these tips too):

  1. Decide first how the body text will look.
  2. Divide the page into foreground and background.
  3. Make adjustments with the smallest visible increments.
  4. When in doubt, try it both ways.
  5. Be consistent.
  6. Relate each new element to existing elements.
  7. Keep it simple.
  8. Imitate what you like.
  9. Don’t fear white space.

There’s plenty of technical detail behind these tips, but they’re a great overview of good design principles that should guide the technical detail.

Read the original article, written by Michael Rappaport, for more insights, I haven’t read the book so I can’t endorse it, but you can learn more about it here.