Be Kind to Your Reader (Why Good Citation is Important)

This blog post isn’t about how to do citations, it’s about why it’s important to provide good citations for the readers of your documents. The library staff’s philosophy is to make it easy for people to look up the case, article, book or statute to which you’ve referred, and to use a consistent style of citation throughout.

Legal citation is a form of encryption or shorthand that is unique to law. Using proper and complete legal citations is as fundamental to effective legal writing as proper spelling, grammar and punctuation. Sloppy citation can undermine the credibility of your writing as much as poor grammar and typos.

The Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation, 8th ed., 2014 (the McGill Guide) is the most-used Canadian source, while The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, 20th ed., 2015 (The Bluebook) is the American equivalent. But these are not prescribed sources, they are guides; the McGill Guide has been officially adopted by numerous legal journals, but by just four Canadian courts. And, sooner or later, there will be something you need to cite that won’t be covered by any of the guides … so you will have to improvise.

So, use common sense, proof-read, and remember: be kind to your reader, and be consistent.