The Appellate Record Blog: Nerdlaw: Thou Shalt Give Thy Reader CRAP (Part Deux)


I know what you're thinking. Your humble blogger has Fall Classic on the brain.

Perhaps so, but there's also a point here. Remember the old Chevy commercial about "Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet?"

Well that was a use of CRAP--or really the last letter in our CRAP acronym: Proximity.

Chevy was saying, "we're as American as baseball, hot dogs and mom's apple pie."

And if you don't buy a Chevy, you're not a real 'Uh-Mer-can. In fact, you may be a commie.

Chevy was making it's product patriotic by placing it in proximity to other American icons. (And by using a jingle that can stick in your head like a blood clot for 35 years. No need to thank me, I'm just here to help.)

After the jump, a homily on what this has to do with legal writing.

Recall from some recent posts the importance of creating chunks of information to aid the understanding of your readers. And the way a graphic artist would tell you to create chunks is by using the acronym CRAP:

Contrast Repetition Alignment Proximity A great reference for all these concepts is Ruth Anne Robbins' article "Painting with Print."*

All "proximity" means is that if you want your reader to associate certain things together, then put them near each other. This has both a visual and a substantive component.

Substantively, if your document has too much "see infra" and "see supra" and "as previously demonstrated," or "again," then maybe you haven't got the puzzle pieces in the right order. Think about proximity. Put things that go together next to each other.

Visually, proximity is most obvious in the way you treat headings and text. Recall the incomprehensible sample document from which I had removed all the chunks. Part of the reason it was incomprehensible was that all of the headings and text were in the same typeface and in the same spacing.

But the decent-looking sample document contrasted the headings and the text and then used white space to create proximity. The headings are preceded by 12 points of white space following the...

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