Tweaking Font Size and Spacing

My enumeration schemes are an important part of my repertoire. There’s the one in MSCD, then there’s the hanging-indent scheme I unleashed in this 2015 post.

But despite my control-freakery, I’ve not paid a lot of attention to two aspects of my scheme, namely point size and spacing. I went with the Word default, which was then Calibri 11 point, with 10 points after and single spacing.

Well, the Word default has now shifted to 8 points after with multiple line spacing at 1.08.

And to complicate matters, the Numbering Assistant, developed by Payne Group, now uses 12 points after headings. That’s relevant because as a favor to me, Payne Group has long incorporated the “articles” and “sections” variants of my scheme—now schemes—as options in the Numbering Assistant. That gives my readers a simple way to adopt whichever of my schemes appeals to them. (Go here for more about my relationship with the Numbering Assistant.) But having 12 points after headings and 10 points after everything else is odd.

So I feel I have to do something. As a way to start thinking about this, I’ve prepared three simplified versions of my hanging-indent scheme:

  • The old Word default (11 point Calibri, with 10 points after and single spacing) (PDF here)
  • The new Word default (11 point Calibri, with 8 points after and multispace spacing at 1.08) (PDF here)
  • An alternative format (12 point Calibri, with 12 points after and multispace spacing at 1.15) (PDF here)

Here are my current thoughts on these choices:

If I want the Numbering Assistant to continue to make sense as a way to apply my schemes, I should shift to 12 point Calibri. So I asked around. According to the Payne Group, among those law firms that use Calibri, some use 11 point and others use 12 point. Deborah Savadra, aka @legalofficeguru, told me that her own preference would be somewhat larger than 11 point (at least 12 point).

Regarding points after, Payne Group presumably opted for 12 points after because that’s what most law firms use. (Generally, I don’t make it a habit of limiting myself to what law firms do.) Deborah told me she favors points-after that matches the font point size.

Regarding line spacing, Payne Group has told me that most law firms use single spacing, although a few of those that use Calibri as their default font style using 1.15 line spacing. Here’s what Deborah told me:

I’ve come to appreciate the merits of 1.15 spacing (which is what Microsoft’s standard was before 1.08), even if it was designed more for web than paper publishing. Long stretches of grey text wear the eye out, and that first glance at a densely-packed document can create a powerful first impression, positive or negative. A little extra negative space between the lines in longer documents is, I think, a good thing.

(Go here for Deborah’s post on Lawyerist about line spacing.) I also consulted Matthew Butterick, he of Typography for Lawyers, who volunteered that he “would always vote against single line spacing.”

So, dear reader, which of the above arrangements should use? Or should I do something else entirely? I invite you to vote in the poll below. And comment if you see fit.

About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.