Summary. Headings and sub-headings should be added to a transcript, and it should be framed in generous margins. A bulleted list is among the most effective typographic devices to present the core section of a deed. Finer detail that needs highlighting can also be displayed with bullets. Bigger documents should be structured into DIV rather than P elements. Dynamic styling is a way to hide dull text till it is needed. Run-in headings enable a more compact view.
For hundreds of years, lawyers and registrars have been writing deeds and employing only the most primitive layout for them. On the one hand, a great deal of redundant "aforesaids" and formulaic material had to be included in these documents because of the lack of what legal scholars call rechtssicherheit. On the other hand, deeds were written in a cramped, abbreviated style with neither spacing nor headings because paper and the services of clerks were costly.
The reader therefore has a dual problem: learning to skate over the junk text, while divining important meaning that may be concealed behind just a squiggle of the pen.
The introduction of pre-printed forms meant some typographical devices such as italics could be employed to make the old formulas clearer for the 19th-century reader. In the 20th century, the advent of the typewriter brought paragraphs, numbering and all-capitals highlighting to legal deeds. The IBM "golfball" electric typewriter brought bold fonts.
But it is only on the computer screen, where white space, colour and enlarged headings cost nothing more than a little alteration to the styling code, that we can make such documents much more readable.
Provided by the editor, headings will be the key signposts guiding the reader through the document. To take full advantage of styling, all the documents in a collection should be headed up in the same way, and a general "anatomy" should be devised to describe every document so that all its parts have a place within the whole. This is explained more fully below.
As examples of deeds in this guide we will use English wills, but the principles apply equally well to testaments from other countries and indeed to most other types of legal deed.