The Aesthetics of Brief Writing

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aesthetics-1Conversations around aesthetics are generally found in the context of the arts. As visual aesthetics are highly important in the context of interactive work (be it music, sculpture, paintings, and the like), it seems only natural to have those conversations. However, when we think of a legal brief, it is rare to ever hear mention of aesthetics. This is because we often are more concerned about the content of the brief rather than the physical appearance—this is a critical flaw. We should concern ourselves with the aesthetics of our brief just as much as we are concerned about the content. We are all aware that judges are busy. Let’s make their job easier: make them want to read your brief.

A brief, much like music, sculpture, paintings and the like, is interactive. A brief is argument that an attorney prepares specifically for the court to interact with. The court’s first impression of the attorney will be how the brief looks. Regardless of what I have been told, I always judge a book by its cover. The judge can and will judge your brief based on how it looks, too. There are simple steps to ensure your brief is the belle of the ball:

1 . Although obvious, do not screw up the basic formatting. Don’t miss the easy ones. Call the clerk and ask what the local rules are if you are not aware of requirements and cannot find the formatting requirements on your own.

2. Leave white space. Why do we need white space? It gives the eyes a break. There is nothing more daunting than flipping the page to see nothing but a wall of text. Your reader will thank you for the white space. In addition, white space can improve the legibility of the document, increase the attention of the reader, and lead to higher overall comprehension of the point you are asserting. A writer can create whitespace by:

  • breaking up a paragraph into multiple paragraphs
  • using point headings
  • using bullet points
  • inserting charts
  • inserting graphics

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