Incorrect citation spacing that looks correct



I am proofreading a paper my boss is submitting for a CLE talk. The paper must be in a 2-column format with full justification. In citations, my boss puts 2 spaces where there should be 1 space, like this:

123  F.3d  456

In case you can’t tell, here’s a clearer version:


Is this okay?


I’ve never heard of that being done, but I am aware that full justification can cause the spacing in citations to look wrong. You didn’t say this, but what must be happening is that when your boss uses 1 space between the volume number and the reporter name and 1 space between the reporter name and the page number, the full justification will sometimes squeeze it together, and it will look like the author omitted the necessary space. Your boss puts in 2 spaces, so it will always look correctly spaced.

I say it’s fine.

Of course, whether you use 1 space, 2 spaces, or no spaces in a citation absolutely cannot affect the authority, the substance, or the analysis. But this confirms that lawyers will judge you on your citation form.

I’ve written about this topic in my book Better Legal Writing. I call this idea—that lawyers will judge your competence by something as unimportant as the spaces in your citations—the tyranny of the inconsequential.

I’ll post an excerpt on this blog.

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