McGill Guide – New 7th Edition – What’s Different?

Colleague Katharine Thompson has provided me a list of some of the changes she noticed in the new, just received 7th edition of the McGill Guide, known more formally as the Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation, edited by editors of the McGill Law Journal and published by Carswell.

This is the leading legal citation guide in Canada, its counterpart in the US being The Bluebook and the more recent ALWD Citation Manual.

The biggest change to me in the new 7th edition of the McGill Guide is the aversion to periods (albeit, presumably they remain acceptable at the end of sentences . . . .). As such, we are now admonished to drop periods in almost all circumstances:

  • Former: Gould Estate v. Stoddart Publishing Co. (1998), 39 O.R. (3d) 545 (C.A.)
  • New 7th edition: Gould Estate v Stoddart Publishing Co (1998), 39 OR (3d) 545 (CA) [i.e., no periods after the “v” or after “Co” or for the abbreviations for the Ontario Reports Court of Appeal]

  • Former: Canada Business Corporations Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-44, s. 181.

  • New 7th edition: Canada Business Corporations Act, RSC 1985, c C-44, s 181. [i.e., no periods for the abbreviation for the Revised Statutes of Canada and no period at the end of the abbreviations for section or chapter]
  • Former: S.M. Waddams, The Law of Contracts, 6th ed. (Aurora, ON: Canada Law Book, 2010)
  • New 7th edition: SM Waddams, The Law of Contracts, 6th ed (Aurora, ON: Canada Law Book, 2010) [i.e., no period between first and middle name initials or after edition]

This last one goes too far [alert: grumpy person now about to complain]: I am all for simplicity and am a huge fan of neutral citation, but unless you advocate the removal of all periods (such as the end of sentences), it doesn’t make sense to remove the periods after a person’s initials – Professor Waddams is Stephen Michael as represented by his initials. “SM” is not a word and is [not yet] a recognized acronym in the way that CEO or VIP is. Thankfully, the new 16th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style appears to still encourage the use of periods for abbreviating various abbreviations included “E.B.” for “E.B. White” and abbreviating id est as “i.e.” or else I would have had to correct my usage of “i.e.” above. Although I could not immediately find a McGill Guide 7th edition use of “i.e.” or “ie” to confirm their position – to my horror, the new 7th edition of the McGill Guide gives examples in Rule 1.4.2. for abbreviating ibidem to Ibid, without a period, so to be consistent, I assume the new McGill Guide would now advocate to not use periods for “ie” – horror of horrors – time to retire [alert: end of grumpy person complaining].

[Note: There is now a new 16th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style. I have just taken advantage of the online offer to buy both the hard copy and a 2-year online susbcription for a discounted price.]

The other major changes of interest that caught my eye in the new 7th edition of the McGill Guide include:

  • Hyphenating looseleaf to loose-leaf (argh!)
  • The use of “Delivered at” for delivery of papers at conferences – see Rule 6.13
  • The use of WL Can as an abbreviation for Westlaw Canada in citations to decisions from that database – see Rule 3.8.2
  • Example for citing a blog in Rule 6.16: Karen Montheith, “CIPO contemplating changes – Extensions of time in examinations”, (30 September 2009) online: Canadian Trademark Blog
  • A whole new chapter on citing foreign sources

There is a more helpful “chart” in Rule 3.1 on hierarchy of sources for citing to cases but my plea that citing only to a neutral citation would be sufficient fell on deaf ears since the 7th edition admonishes the researcher to cite to at least two sources for the decision to “make sure the information is appropriately identified and accessible”, which I guess is reasonable.

The new edition seems to be formatted in a more pleasing manner (using red-coloured fonts more effectively for headings and in examples).

The obvious comment / complaint would be this: if both The Bluebook and the Chicago Manual of Style can offer both a print / online version for purchasers, how come we can’t get an online version of the McGill Guide?

Despite my complaints, the McGill Guide will remain an important reference source for the citation of Canadian legal materials. However, as with past editions of the McGill Guide, I would regularly decide to intentionally violate the recommended rules where it served my purpose and I felt I could justify my departure from their standard. Time will tell if I remove periods from my citations, as suggested by this new edition.

I welcome comments and invite expressions of interest in membership in the soon-to-be-created Society for the Protection and Retention of Periods in English Grammar.


  1. Ted,

    I for one acknowledge your co(bservation)mplaints. Far from being “Larry David like” I see them as valid.

    It is worth noting that the publishers of this text (Carswell)require “exact punctuation” when you perform a search using the citation search-box within their fine product Westlaw Canada. Thus, in your first example of Gould Estate v. Stoddart Publishing Co. conducting a search within the citation field using the former punctuation “39 O.R. (3d) 545” retrieves 2 results, where as a search using the latter “39 OR (3d) 545” retrieves some 229. Ouch.

  2. Why keep the comma in the case citation?

  3. I am all for getting rid of periods, but I agree that getting rid of periods in the initials of a person’s name is too far. As for [an online version,] I also wish they had this available electronically – why are they so against this?

  4. Dale – as soon as I heard about the period problem, I wondered whether this move was to facilitate online searching.

    With respect to the removal of periods from case reporters – I have a real problem with this.

    What I really don’t understand is how a “citation guide” can arbitrarily make up rules about how to cite publications which have their own set abbreviation appearing at the top of each page and on the title page of the reporter itself. To me, a reporter’s abbreviation should be respected, or else users could get very confused in decades to come.

    Also, it is going to be really hard to teach people to understand what periods (and lack of periods) meant, pre 2010, how to use them now, and whether or not to use them for citations to materials published before 2010. (Any suggestions on this one?!)

    For my part, I was happy having no periods as a distinguishing feature of a neutral citation – this was a good rule of thumb to help teach students how to spot a neutral citation. Now everyone is going to be confused.

    By the by, I wonder if this will have an impact on Bieber’s…?

    I tend to concur with Ted, with a spin — I really think we should flat out boycott the pulling of periods from reporter abbreviations as
    inappropriate and arbitrary.

    As a side note, has anyone looked closely at the Canada Tables for the new edition of the Bluebook?

  5. Gary P. Rodrigues

    In my view, the real question is whether the McGill Guide should look forward or backward.

    In the case of the neutral citation, the argument has been persuasively made that the Guide was right to look to the future when it advocated the use of the neutral citation well before its time.

    Should it be any different in regard to the use of pointless periods in legal citations that have been shown time and again to serve no purpose whatever in locating a case?

    Drop the clutter and move forward on both fronts.

  6. Assuming that all of these changes are “good”, can they possibly be good enough to justify obliging everyone to shell out another $50 and learn a new set of rules?

    They all seem picayune to me.

  7. Hi Ted:

    As someone who spends far too much time looking at the McGill Guide, I agree that your use of i.e. is neither McGill-sanctioned nor -scorned; however, I do note that throughout the 7th edition text they use e.g. as is, with periods but no italics. In 1.3.6, the text explains that while c.f. and contra remain italicized, e.g. is not “because of its common usage in the English language.” I use i.e. all the time – does that give it common usage status? I assume the same rules would apply to i.e. as to e.g.?

    I also note, however, that in 1.3.6 which I cite here, they use c.f. with periods, which must be an error since it’s short for confer, and in the 6th edition, they more properly write cf.. *sigh*

    Otherwise, I found many of the changes very welcome, though still much room for improvement. No periods = one less thing my students can get wrong on their Legal Research assignments! (Though they will probably find something else…)

  8. Agreeing with Noel above, these seems like planned obsolescence.

    I hope they return to the plastic coil binding from the metal, much easier to remove the 1/2 that I won’t reference.

  9. Gary P. Rodrigues

    The elimination of the comma has undoubtedly been saved for the next edition. You heard it first on slaw.

  10. I wanted to thank everyone for their comments. I am now editing a paper written before the author would have seen the new 7th edition and (I guess) I need to force myself to start removing periods . . . .

    Despite my old-fashioned nostalgia for full stops in abbreviations and elsewhere one thing I found the most difficult for students in McGill Guide style was the whole square brackets versus round parentheses debate for the year of the reporter, with each one requiring a different placement of the comma.

    Arguably, this is just too fine a point for most users of print case law reporters who could likely easily find the appropriate decision from a print case law reporter whether the footnote used square brackets or round parentheses (a point Gary is hinting at in comment 6 above).

  11. One of Her Majesty’s Justices (and a loyal reader and enthusiast of Slaw) comments:

    But I LIKE periods in citations. I really do. :-)