September 15, 2010

The new National Moot problem is here! The new National Moot problem is here!

The National Moot Court Competition -- one of the oldest, and arguably the most prestigious, moot court competition in the world -- released its problem today. Which isn't blogworthy, really. It's just that for the first time in five years, the fine folks at the New York City Bar Association finally caved to my (and others') incessant bitching and gave us a proportional, serif font.

Huh??? (you ask). Well, gather round for story hour, kiddos, 'cause this one's a thriller. Once upon a time, the NMCC's rule regarding "length and form" of briefs was a bit ridonkulous. It read: "The style, font, and pitch shall be uniform for all brief contents...The type size used shall produce no more than 12 characters per inch and no more than six lines per inch." It then had one page limit for "briefs which use a type size producing 10 characters per inch or less," and another for those "producing more than 10 characters per inch, but not exceeding 12 characters per inch." It also had a rule, which nobody understood, that dictated any single-spaced text "shall be counted as 2 inches of text." Umm, yeah...

The uniform pitch requirement meant that you had to use a non-proportional, or monospaced, font. In other words, every letter is the same width (the "m" is just as wide as the "l"). The most common non-proportional font? Courier (also known as "typewriter"). Which was all well and good, except that the briefs all looked as if they were written in 1972.

So, the Association finally entered the computer age and changed the rule in 2005. Only instead of mandating that the font be Times New Roman (or any other Roman-styled typeface) as one would expect, the Association dropped a head-scratcher on us all and mandated Arial. Arial!!!

So what's so bad about Arial, you ask? Well, nothing, per se. I'm sure she comes from a good home, with good parents and the like. The problem is that Arial is a sans-serif font. Serifs are the little thingies (that's a technical term) that extend off the ends of letters. Serif typefaces, like Times New Roman and Garamond, have them. Sans serif fonts, like Arial and Calibri, don't. There's a reason newspapers and magazines use serif fonts: They're easier to read. When you're dealing with small print, serifs help the words stand out on the page and help the eye move from letter to letter. Sans-serif fonts are fine for much bigger print -- like headlines -- but they tend to "bleed" into the page when used in ordinary text. (Sans-serif fonts also do well on computer screens, for what it's worth.)

Not a year has gone by that I haven't asked the Association to mandate something other than Arial (I've asked nicely; it's not as if I'm a jerk). So imagine my pleasant surprise when today, upon opening the problem, I see it printed in -- wait for it -- Century??? Knowing that the problem is usually printed in the same typeface that the rules require for the briefs, I quickly scrolled to the Competition's Rule 3, and there it was: "Rule 3.2.2: Use Century family (e.g., Century, Century Schoolbook, etc.) 12-point type." Wow!!! See 'ya, Arial. Your fifteen minutes (er, five years) is up.

So, while the choice is still a bit odd, I'll take it. In related news, the Association has dropped the page limit (which, even last year, still included the odd "one inch of single-spaced text counts as two inches" rule) in favor of a much simpler word count (12,000, if you must know).

That's way more than most of you thought you'd ever learn about fonts, but hey, I'm full-service around here.

1 comment:

Warren T said...

Century is not an odd choice because it is the same font required by the Rule 33.1(b) of the United States Supreme Court.