Use ordinary capitalization in legal writing.
Prefer sentence case. Avoid all-caps and initial-caps.
Resist the legal-writing traditions of writing headings in all-caps or initial-caps styles rather than sentence case, using capital letters for emphasis, or otherwise departing from ordinary rules of capitalization.
Consider the following headings, noticing how they proceed from unreadable to inviting:
Terrible (all-caps, as found in a filed brief):
PLAINTIFF RESPECTFULLY REQUESTS A DETERMINATION BY THE COURT THAT THE DEFENDANT VIOLATES THE LAD BY FAILING TO PROVIDE ACCESS TO ITS CURB CUTS, LIBRARY AND TOWNSHIP HALL.
Slightly better (initial-caps):
Plaintiff Respectfully Requests A Determination By The Court That The Defendant Violates The LAD By Failing To Provide Access To Its Curb Cuts, Library And Township Hall.
Much better (sentence case):
Plaintiff respectfully requests a determination by the court that the defendant violates the LAD by failing to provide access to its curb cuts, library and township hall.
Best (sentence case, revised):
The city illegally fails to provide access to its sidewalks and public buildings.
This is just another example of one of this blog’s central principles: strong legal writing is easy and pleasant to read.
Ryan McCarl is a founding partner of Rushing McCarl LLP, author of Elegant Legal Writing (U. Cal. Press 2024), and adjunct professor at Loyola Law School. For more writing tips, subscribe to the Elegant Legal Writing newsletter and follow Ryan on LinkedIn. McCarl’s book is now available on Amazon.
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