Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of North Carolina published its internal “Guidebook” for citation, style, and usage.

You may recall that a few years back, a lawyer obtained a copy of and began selling the U.S. Supreme Court’s “secret” Style Guide. Fortunately, you do not need to buy a copy of our State Supreme Court’s Guidebook on Amazon—or wade through 266 pages of text. Instead, the 12-page Guidebook is available on the Supreme Court’s website as well as our blog’s resource page.

The Guidebook—which has existed unofficially for years—is geared toward Court employees working on Supreme Court judicial opinions. Notably, the Guidebook is not binding on anyone—including the Supreme Court justices, Court of Appeals judges, or appellate practitioners. Rather, the Guidebook discloses default consistency preferences for Supreme Court opinions. Still, for practitioners who might want to conform their Supreme Court briefs and motions to the Court’s internal preferences, the Guidebook is helpful.

Items in the Guidebook of particular note include:

• The Supreme Court cites to the North Carolina General Statutes as “N.C.G.S.,” not “N.C. Gen. Stat.”
• The Supreme Court typically avoids placeholder citations for decisions that have not yet been published in reporters (e.g., ___ N.C. App. ___)
• The Supreme Court cites to a pdf version of recent session laws that have not yet been published in the bound volumes

And some helpful suggestions:

• Do not refer to a party as “appellant” or “appellee,” even in a compound noun such as “plaintiff-appellant”
• Refer to “the trial court” rather than to a specific judge
• Remember that appellate courts “hold” or “conclude”—they do not “find”
• Use a blank space between consecutive quotation marks and consecutive brackets
• Consult Black’s Law Dictionary to determine whether a compound term should have a hyphen

Do you plan to conform your writing style to the preferences of the Supreme Court? If so, which ones? Let us know in the comments below.

–Kip Nelson