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November 2007
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January 2008

How to type a non-breaking space

Let’s say your memorandum cites 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Let’s say the citation occurs near the end of a line, so that the § is at the end of one line and the 1331 is at the beginning of the next. How do you keep the two together on the same line with a space in between?

Answer: You type a non-breaking space, also known as a hard space or a fixed space. A non-breaking space prevents an automatic line break at its location.

Web-page coders create a non-breaking space by typing the HTML code “ ”. That doesn’t help you if you’re writing your memorandum in Word. But this tip will: To type a non-breaking space, just hold the CTRL and SHIFT keys down while pressing the space bar once.

A similar trick works for typing a non-breaking hyphen: hold the CTRL and SHIFT keys down while pressing the hyphen key.

A word I learned today that I should have already known

In reading a reported decision today, I came across the verb ramify. For years I’ve known its nominalization, ramification. And I’ve known for some time that any word with the suffix –tion is probably based on a verb. But I never figured out until today that ramification has a verb root, which is ramify.

According to the Free Dictionary, ramify means “[t]o have complicating consequences or outgrowths.” Ramification means  “[a] development or consequence growing out of and sometimes complicating a problem, plan, or statement.” Note that a ramification is not merely an effect; it’s an effect with complications.

Write well; impress clients.

The Association of Corporate Counsel’s web site features a monthly Top Ten column. This month’s installment is Top Ten Ways to Achieve Good Legal Writing, by Professor Paula Colby-Clements of the Massachusetts School of Law. It’s a good article. Practicing lawyers should heed not only its content, but it’s publication by the ACC — a sign that corporate counsel value good legal writing.

Among the gems in Prof. Colby-Clements’s article is this simile about not trying to make too many points in one writing:

It’s comparable to lying on a bed of nails: if there are too many points (spikes), nothing gets through. When there are only a few, they penetrate the skin.

(Hat tip to Mister Thorne.)

More choices in fonts designed for on-screen reading

A few days ago, I thought there were only two typefaces designed for on-screen reading: Georgia (with serifs) and Verdana (sans serif). But if you’re running Microsoft Office 2007 or Microsoft Vista, you have more choices: six new fonts forming Microsoft’s ClearType collection. Ken Adams dug into them a few days ago, and underwent a conversion from Times New Roman to Calibri — a most attractive sans serif font. To learn about the new fonts and the ClearType technology behind them, read Ken’s post and this article on Poynter Online.

Due to court rules, litigators will likely have to stick with serif fonts, at least for text. The ClearType collection offers two: Cambria and Constantina. According to the Poynter article, Cambria is designed to serve as an “all-purpose workhorse text face,” suitable for most business applications. Constantina is designed to look consistent (and consistently beautiful) in both print and on-screen applications. If you’re running Vista or Office 2007, you may want to experiment with them.


p.s. E-mail from Ken: “Your post today misses one important aspect of the ClearType fonts—you can use them if you have Office 2003 and you download the compatibility pack. (I include a link in my post.) That’s what I’ve done, because I haven’t yet shifted to Office 2007.”

Another point important for those not enamored of Vista: According to Microsoft, Windows XP supports ClearType.

A terrific seminar

If you’re an appellate lawyer or a general litigator who sometimes handles appeals, then you should consider attending the DRI Appellate Advocacy Seminar, to be held in Orlando, Florida on February 28–29, 2008. I have been fortunate enough to attend every DRI Appellate Advocacy Seminar ever held, from the first one in 1999 in Washington, D.C. through last year’s in Phoenix, Arizona. The DRI seminars are, in my opinion, the best of their kind in the nation. The upcoming program includes the following presentations:

  • An assessment of the Roberts Court by Supreme Court practitioner Patricia Ann Millett and law professor David Stras.
  • A panel discussion giving the “view from the other side of the bench” by appellate judges Theodore McKee (3d Cir.), Diane Sykes (7th Cir.), and Chief Justice Jean Hoefer Toal (S.C. Supreme Court).
  • “The Beautiful Brief — Persuasion Through Appearance,” by Prof. Ruth Anne Robbins, author of Painting with Print.
  • A panel discussion by three in-house lawyers — Ann Marie Hanrahan of 3M, James E. Kling of Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., and Teresa Wynn Roseboroug of MetLife — about the contributions their appellate lawyers to give to the trial team.
  • “Judicial Use of Legal Reasoning — Theory Versus Practice,” by Prof. Emily L. Sherwin.
  • “The Impact of the Internet in Briefs and Judicial Opinions,” by Prof. Coleen M. Barger, hostess of Barger on Legal Writing.
  • “How to Bring a Cold Paper Record to Life,” by Dahlia Lithwick, giving a journalist’s perspective on how to convert a box of paper into a compelling story.
  • “The Unwritten Rules of Appellate Advocacy,” by seasoned appellate lawyer Luther Munford.
  • A presentation on arbitration appeals by Aaron S. Bayer.
  • For ethics credit, a presentation on ethical issues in appellate advocacy by Douglas R. Richmond of Aon Corp.

The seminar will be held at the J. W. Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes. For more information, visit DRI’s web site or click here to download the brochure.

Commas and the Second Amendment

There must be a stubborn writer somewhere who vowed that, to delete a comma, the editor would have to pry it from his cold, dead fingers. Then there was Lynne Truss, who wrote about the syntactical difference between “eats shoots and leaves” and “eats, shoots and leaves.” With those happy thoughts in mind, consider the commas in the Second Amendment:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Adam Freedman, who blogs at Party of the First Part, parses the Second Amendment in an op-ed for the New York Times. A must-read for punctuation fanatics.

Short sentences good.

Joanne Young has posted her 10 commandments of writing, all of which are worthwhile and most of which will benefit legal writers. Check them out.

Number 5 on her list is, “Do use short sentences.” If you keep this commandment, you’ll avoid writing things like this 306-word monstrosity I came across today (citation withheld to avoid embarrassing the author):

In view of the fact that the insured gave notice of the claimed windstorm damage to his home as soon as he discovered it, which was over 5 months after the windstorm, the insurance companies, in the absence of fraud or collusion, could not successfully deny liability on the ground that the insured failed to give notice promptly within the time provided by the policies, the court decided in Hayward v Carolina Ins. Co. (1951, La App) 51 So 2d 405, reh den 52 So 2d 468, upholding, except as to the amount of the award and the allowance of attorney fees and penalties, a judgment for the insured, where it appeared or was shown that after the windstorm in September, 1947, the insured collected $27.50 from the two insurance companies for damage to his roof; that after the storm there was hardly any rain until the latter part of February or first part of March, 1948; that during the latter part of February, the insured went on a trip to another state and did not return for about 2 weeks, or until March 5, 1948; that upon his return home he discovered that water was pouring down the walls in front of the house and that the inner front wall was wet, the floor covered with water, and the interior covered with mold and mildew, and he then notified the agent of the insurance companies of the damage; and that at the trial the insured produced competent witnesses who testified that the damage was caused by the windstorm of September, 1947, and the trial court so found, their theory being that the storm caused the flashing of the front wall to be pulled away from the roof and the wall either weakened or separated from the main roof, permitting water to seep inside the house.

Whew! A few more clauses and the author would have had one word for every day of the year. As it is, we have one word for every day from January 1 through November 2.

This must have been before the Bluebook

I just wanted to share this passage about citation problems circa 1910. The advice in the concluding sentence is just as good today as it was 97 years ago:

The learned counsel for appellee has cited the cases by book and page only, without giving their titles; but, strange to say (about the first time such a thing has come within the observation of the writer in his more than ten years’ experience on this bench), this slipshod mode of citation has enabled the court to find all the cases intended to be referred to; that is to say, the figures (by some miracle) have all turned out to be right, every one of them. As a rule, most of them and sometimes all (by misprint or otherwise) turn out to be wrong; and the court has not the slightest idea what cases counsel had in mind. It would seem to us that, if a case is worth the trouble of citing at all, it ought to be worth the trouble of citing in a way that it will be likely to be brought to the attention of the court; that is to say, by title, as well as by book and page expressed in figures, which generally turn out to be wrong.

Corbett v. Hanson, 127 La. 219, 221, 53 So. 529, 530 (1910).