FORM, practice. The model of an instrument or legal-proceeding, containing the substance and the principal terms, to be used in accordance with the laws; or, it is the act of pursuing, in legal proceedings, and in the construction of legal instruments, the order required by law. Form is usually put in contradistinction to substance. For example, by the operation of the statute of 27 Eliz. c. 5, s. 1, all merely formal defects in pleading, except in dilatory pleas, are aided on general demurrer.
2. The difference between matter of form, and matter of substance, in general, under this statute, as laid down by Lord Hobart, is, that " that without which the right doth sufficiently appear to the court, is form;" but that any defect " by reason whereof the right appears not," is a defect in substance. Hob. 233.
3. A distinction somewhat more definite, is, that if the matter pleaded be in itself insufficient, without reference to the manner of pleading it, the defect is substantial; but that if the fault is in the manner of alleging it, the defect is formal. Dougl. 683. For example, the omission of a consideration in a declaration in assumpsit; or of the performance of a condition precedent, when such condition exists; of a conversion of property of the plaintiff, in trover; of knowledge in the defendant, in an action for mischief done by his dog of malice, in action for malicious prosecution, and the like, are all defects in substance. On the other hand, duplicity; a negative pregnant; argumentative pleading; a special plea, amounting to the general issue; omission of a day, when time is immaterial; of a place, in transitory actions, and the like, are only faults in form. Bac. Ab. Pleas, &c. N 5, 6; Com. Dig. Pleader, Q 7; 10 Co. 95 a; 2 Str. 694 Gould; Pl. c. 9, §17, 18; 1 Bl. Com. 142.
4. At the same time that fastidious objections against trifling errors of form, arising from mere clerical mistakes, are not encouraged or sanctioned by the courts, it has been justly observed, that "infinite mischief has been produced by the facility of the courts in overlooking matters of form; it encourages carelessness, and places ignorance too much upon a footing with knowledge amongst those who practice the drawing of pleadings." 1 B. & P. 59; 2 Binn. Rep. 434. See, generally, Bouv. Inst. Index, h. t.