Lawyers have a terrible habit of Overusing Capitalization. This goes for pleadings, discovery requests, briefs, you name it. Exuberant capitalization is the “cop talk” of legal writing.

Litigators capitalize some other words, like Plaintiff and Defendant, by convention, but many get carried away.

Capitalize the name of a document only when you are referring to a specific document. “complaint,” “counterclaim,” “third-party complaint,” and similar terms are sufficiently generic that you never need to capitalize them.

For any delicate questions of capitalization, as well as other fine points of legal style, Bryan Garner’s Redbook is an excellent legal writer’s reference.


  1. Greg says:

    Great post. I feel the same way and it’ s been nice to have a say in developing forms and getting rid of the capitalization curse.

  2. Eric Cooperstein says:

    And while we’re at it, how about getting rid of the inane “hereinafter” for abbreviations, as in Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing (hereinafter “3M”). I think when there’s a parenthetical abbreviation right after a name, most people can figure out that they’re going to see it again later.

  3. Sam Glover says:

    Agreed 100%.

  4. Jennifer Gumbel says:

    Is there any reason to keep redundant prepositions, such as heretofor? I always want to chuck them for something more readable when I’m messing with a form… those words give me the feeling I need to keep a robe and wig around the office.

  5. Sam Glover says:

    I am adding “heretofore” to the list of “words that will make me tear up your brief” that I give to my students.

  6. Seth says:

    In fact, the Redbook does not address the issue of capitalizing “plaintiff” and “defendant.” However, the Bluebook does.

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