Manuscript Preparation, Copyediting, and Proofreading

Q. As a trial attorney, I do many pleadings and briefs, which I think look better in “full justify” (fj) alignment. This troubles my new secretary, who dislikes fj as too “rote and mechanical,” and less reader-friendly. Though I highly value her opinion, am I being too hawkish on this?

A. Chicago doesn’t recommend full justification for typed documents (see CMOS 2.10). Short lines are stretched, creating awkward spaces between words, and full lines are squished. The result is difficult to read. The remedy is hyphenation, but that has its own problems, and I would imagine that legal writers would want to avoid confusion over spelling technicalities. Full justification is practical only when documents are typeset, since sophisticated typesetting applications are able to adjust spacing in ways that more basic word processors cannot. It sounds as though your new secretary knows what she’s doing.