A little over a year ago, Wayne Schiess posted an essay against placing too much importance on the form of citations: something Wayne referred to as “the tyranny of the inconsequential.” Wayne’s essay is the inspiration for my own New Year’s resolution: to escape the tyranny of the trivial.
Sometimes in our pursuit of excellence, we lose perspective. I’ve seen good legal writers, people who otherwise never spoke a cross word to one another, get mad at each other over trivialities like these:
- right-hand margins (justified or ragged).
- placement of citations (footnotes versus in text).
- spacing at the end of a sentence (one space or two).
My resolution is to keep things like these in perspective. Make no mistake: pursuit of excellence means sweating the details. But let’s remember that good writers can disagree about things like these. More importantly, let’s remember that things like these are relatively unimportant compared to simplicity, conciseness, logic, and writing so as to be understood on the first reading.