McGill Guide (7th Ed): For Footnotes Only?

Much has been written on SLAW about the fairly recent 7th edition of the Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation (known as the McGill Guide, red in colour, and published by Carswell), including a lengthy 21 September 2010 post by John Davis that includes links to prior posts.

Although I was initially against the “radical” change to remove periods from most citations, I have since come to prefer the simplicity of removing periods on citations to legal documents over which I have editorial control.

However, the focus of the guide (understandably) is on citation style for your footnotes when citing legal resources in your document. In my mind, however, there is some uncertainty on how the 7th edition might change normal grammar rules in the text of your document.

Here are some examples of issues I have encountered or questions I have been asked, followed by my proposed solutions (I welcome comments, especially if I am simply not finding the correct advice from the guide or if there is otherwise strong disagreement with my recommendations):

1) Use of “i.e.” and “e.g.” versus “ie” or “eg”: Rule 1.4.2 of the McGill Guide suggests we are to not include a period at the end of “ibid” (an abbreviation for the Latin word ibidem, meaning “in the same place”). What then is one to do in your text when using the Latin abbreviations “i.e.” for illud est (meaning “that is” or “namely”) or “e.g.” for exempli gratia (meaning “for example)?

In my mind, the following example without periods from the text of your document looks funny:

There are many advantages of a document management system having a good taxonomy for the way in which documents are profiled or described, starting from the creation of standard folders for client matters (eg, Accounts, Correspondence, Transaction Documents, Research, and so on).

Rule 6.43 of the 16th edition of The Chicago Manual of Style advocates using periods for “e.g.” or “i.e.” (and followed by a commas and used only in parentheses); likewise, Rule 10.43 of Chicago requires a period to abbreviate “ibid.”

Recommendation: Use “i.e.” or “e.g.” in the text of your document (or better yet: use plain English and avoid the use of Latin abbreviations all together).

2) Referring to the judge in your text: Rule 3.10 of the 7th edition of the McGill Guide advocates removing the period after the “J” in footnotes as an abbreviation for Judge (e.g., a fictitious example: ABC Ltd v Smith, 2009 ABCA 34 at para 21, Williams J).

However, what is one to do in the text of your legal document when referring to a judge, as in the following example?

In upholding the ruling of Smith J. at trial, the Court of Appeal emphasized the fact-intensive evidence that was presented.

Using only “Smith J” in the foregoing example (i.e., without the period after the “J”) looks funny.

Recommendation: I am not sure what to do here so recommend avoiding the abbreviation all together by re-writing the sentence, as in:

Corrected: In upholding the ruling of Madam Justice Smith at trial, the Court of Appeal emphasized the fact-intensive evidence that was presented.

3) Other abbreviations or initials: Rule 3.9 of the 7th edition of the McGill Guide does away with periods in footnotes when referring to jurisdictions (e.g., two fictitious examples: Jones v Brown, (2004), 45 DLR (3d) 9 (BCCA) or Williams v Turner, 45 US 56 (1852)).

However, what does one do in the text of your document when referring to abbreviations for jurisdictions? Examples:

In the US, there are two approaches to determining liability . . . .

versus

In the U.S., there are two approaches to determining liability . . . .

or

The courts in BC have taken an expansive approach granting summary judgment . . . .

versus

The courts in B.C. have taken an expansive approach granting summary judgment . . . .

Rules 10.28 and 10.29 of The Chicago Manual of Style perhaps answer this one: in the text of your document, spell the province or state in full and abbreviate in footnotes or bibliographies using the appropriate postal or zip code abbreviation, without periods.

4) Use of Section versus “s”: In this situation the McGill Guide is more helpful, although I find many legal writers get it wrong. In editing a document shortly after the release of the 7th edition, when I encountered the following sentence (or something similar to it), I was not sure what to do – period or no period?

In interpreting s. 12 of the Evidence Act, the court emphasized . . . .

Well, it is actually a trick example. Rule 2.1.10 of the McGill Guide states: Abbreviate section to s and sections to ss in the footnotes [i.e., with no period], but always write the full word in the text.

There you go. Thoughts?

Comments

  1. Check your latin in point #1 – i.e. and e.g. are not matched with their correct full latin phrases.

  2. Mea culpa.

    Good eyes. Thanks for noticing. I have just corrected the text above.

    Perhaps it illustrates in part why lawyers should not write in Latin.

  3. I always remembered the difference between i.e. and e.g by playing on the first letter as follows:

    e.g. – for egg-sample (example)

    i.e. – in other words

  4. It is always remarkable to me just how much nomos (i.e. a a socially constructed ordering of experience or expectation) plays into the human experience. This comment:

    “Using only “Smith J” in the foregoing example (i.e., without the period after the “J”) looks funny,”

    is the perfect example of how nomos dominates our thinking. After all, if it had always been written Smith J and that was the accepted tradition it would not look “funny.” And yet, to add the period after the J probably would look funny to a person accustomed to J without a period.

    Now, just imagine how odd the following ideas must be to some people:

    1. that women are equal to men;
    2. people who speak different languages deserve as much respect as those who speak the same language;
    3. that all are equal before the law; and
    4. that the poor are just as deserving of some of the desserts of society as the wealthy.

    Such is the power of nomos. Changing the nomos is one of the most powerful ways to change the human experience of the world, for in most things human, nomos is all there is. As lawyers, with our human derived rules, regulations, behaviours and laws, we should know this better than anyone.