Friend of the Indiana appellate and post-conviction advocate

How to Make Your Appellate Briefs Easier on the Judges’ Eyes

For some time now, judges on Indiana’s appellate courts have been reviewing appellate briefs electronically, usually on tablets. Thus, making briefs as screen-friendly as possible is imperative. Here I offer several tips to make appellate briefs easier on the judges’ eyes.

1. Use Arial font at 13-point or larger.

Indiana Appellate Rule 43(D) lists 15 fonts that are approved for use. Studies have shown that people read sans serif fonts on the screen faster and more accurately than serif fonts. Yet there is only one sans serif font on the Court’s approved list: Arial.

Indiana Appellate Rule 43(D) also requires that the font be 12-point or larger. But on a tablet, a 12-point font can be difficult to read. Therefore, 13-point, or even 14-point, is preferred.

2. Set your line spacing at double your font size.

Indiana Appellate Rule 43(E) requires that text be double-spaced. There are two ways to double-space text: (1) set the line spacing setting to “double”; or (2) set the line spacing to “exactly 26 pt.” In general, text with smaller spacing between the lines is easier to read on a screen. Thus, setting the line spacing at double the font size is preferred.

3. Use point headings often and in sentence form.

Many of the appellate judges have expressed how helpful point headings are when reviewing appellate briefs. Not only do headings identify the main points of the argument, they break up the text into more readable chunks. Writing them in sentence form is easier to read and solves a common problem encountered by the writer: figuring out which words should be capitalized in a title and which words should not. Finally, whatever you do, do NOT use all caps! They are very difficult to read on screen.

4. Stop following conventional rules.

Conventional rules require at least a 1/2-inch indentation at the beginning of each paragraph. But on screen a smaller indentation, such as 1/4-inch, is easier to read.

Conventional rules require that a quote longer than three lines requires a block quote. But block quotes disrupt the reader’s flow. Consider removing them.

Finally, conventional rules suggest footnotes are helpful in some situations. But reading a footnote on screen requires the reader to scroll down, then scroll back up to find her place again in the text. This slows the reader down and disrupts her flow.

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