Double Spacing Dispute

Pa.R.O.C.P. 4.1(c) (and similar rules in most other courts) states that the text of all petitions and other “legal paper” filed with the Orphans’ Court must be “double spaced.” Based on a recent motion filed in a federal court and that court’s ruling on that motion, it appears that “double spaced” can have at least two meanings. However, it is likely that, unless you are a tech geek or a typesetting fanatic, you should not care or need to care.

Fonts and Line Spacings

Pa.R.O.C.P. 4.1(d) requires the use of lettering that is no smaller than 12 points, a “point” being 1/72nd of a inch. A 12 point font is therefore one sixth of an inch, and one would expect that single-spaced 12 point text would be six lines to an inch.

And that might be the result using a standard manual typewriter with 12 point Courier type and one carriage return per line.

For reasons that aren’t altogether clear, but might have to do with aesthetics or readability, Microsoft Word and most other word processing programs will “single space” a 12 point font at about 14 points per line, so “double spaced” text in Word is actually about 28 points per line and not 24 points. However, it is possible to set line spacing at 12 points per line or 24 points per line if you want.

And some lawyers thought that was worth litigating.

The Litigation

Jessica Jones et al. v. Varsity Brands LLC, et al., is a class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, and the lawyers for the plaintiffs decided to set the line spacings in their filings to exactly 24 points rather than the 28 points which Word would use by default. The defendants claimed that the plaintiffs were doing that to get more words on each page (27 lines of text instead of 23) and filed a motion to require the plaintiffs to comply with a local rule that required that filings be “double-spaced.” (According to a footnote in the court’s order, the defendants initially raised in the issue in order to try to get an extension of time to file a reply in connection with a motion for summary judgment.)

After explaining the two different possible meanings of “double-spaced,” and citing two different conclusions in two opinions from other courts, the court in Jessica Jones refused to take a position on the meaning of “double-spaced” but also found that a 24 point spacing did not violate the local rule, concluding with the following observations:

“The Court further notes that the last thing any party needs is more words on a page. The length of an argument is no guarantee of its success, and indeed could result in more confusion, not clarity. Moving forward, the Parties are encouraged to spend their valuable time focusing on the merits of this case, and certainly not figuring out how many sometimes-useless words will fit on a page.”

Jessica Jones et al. v. Varsity Brands LLC, et al., No. 2:20-cv-02892-SHL, Doc. 526, p. 3 (U.S.D.C. W.D. Tenn. 11/1/2023) (footnote omitted).

The Author’s Practice

I must confess that for many years I have been filing petitions and other documents in the Orphans’ Court with line spacings that were not what Word calls “double” or were even 24 points, but were what Word calls “1.5 lines,” which is halfway between single and double spacing.

I did this because I believe that the rule requiring “double spaced” was to improve readability and not limit the lines or words on the page. To my eye, double-spacing in Word appeared to be too spaced out and too far between the lines of text, while the 1.5 lines setting was more attractive and more readable.

If you look at most published works of fiction (and not court reporters or textbooks), you will see similar line spacings, which are more than single spaced but less than double spaced. This is because fiction is read for pleasure and publishers want to make the books easier to read.

Based on what I now know, I understand that 1.5 lines of 12 point type is about 21 points, which is significantly more than the 12 points resulting from “single spaced” and only slightly less than the 24 points resulting from “double spaced.”

So I believe I have complied with the spirit and intent of Pa.R.O.C.P. 4.1(c) even if I have not complied with a literal interpretation of the rule.

And no judge or party has complained about, or perhaps even noticed, the line spacings in my filings (at least so far).


The requirement of double-spacing in court filings is probably for readability rather than as a limit on pages, lines of text, or words. For that reason, it should be possible to use either 24 point spacing or the “double” line spacing in a word processing program without violating court rules (and most likely without anyone noticing).

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Comments are closed.