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The 9th edition of the Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation (better known as the McGill Guide) was published earlier this summer. The most important change was no longer requiring a parallel citation in addition to a neutral citation. While the guide tends to be the default for Canadian citation, several courts have slightly different citation requirements:

Susannah Tredwell


Did you know that you can receive instant notifications every time a new case is added to CanLII simply by subscribing to an RSS feed?  Would you like to monitor all new decisions from a particular level of court or administrative tribunal?  An RSS feed can do that for you.

RSS feeds deliver instant updates that inform you whenever a website is updated.  In CanLII’s case, they will alert you whenever a new decision is posted.

Our colleagues at the Law Society of Manitoba Library have put together an excellent guide that describes how to Create an Alert with CanLII.

[This tip by Alan Kilpatrick originally appeared on the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library’s Legal Sourcery Blog]


The latest in a continuing series.

Next time: guidance for the reluctant legal blogger

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)


Not hats: capital letters (or, in typographical parlance, upper case).

Don’t shout at people

When the interweb and e-mail were new, it took (some) people a while to figure out that typing your message all in caps is the typographical equivalent of shouting. Compare: please don’t forget to do this (gentle reminder) versus PLEASE DON’T FORGET TO DO THIS (angry, hectoring, perhaps a bit desperate, possibly crazy).

Used sparingly, capitals can be an effective way to express emphasis (especially if you’re not typing in HTML or rich text) – but the key word here is ‘sparingly’; if everything is emphasised, nothing is (the lawyer who cried ‘urgent’?). Or you look like you’re shouting.

 Proper names

That is, names of persons and places (Beyoncé, Tennessee), which always take an initial capital – unless done for typographical (or other) effect (the writers e.e. cummings, bpNichol and bell hooks come to mind).

 Sometimes proper names can lose their initial capital when they become disassociated with an actual place: you would not be wrong to write brussels sprout, french letter, french window, venetian blinds.


Old-fashioned usage is to go all out with capitals on these; it’s more modern to ease up (but I’m a fan of that officially capitalised T in Her Majesty The Queen).

When referring to a specific person by title, it may be better to use upper case: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, pleased welcome the Prime Minister of Canada!’

But when you’re using a job or other title as a generic description, the capitals can go: ‘When Sir John A. Macdonald was prime minister, there were less rigid rules about conflicts of interest’.

Similarly, it’s really not necessary to capitalise every routine instance of president, chair etc.  Or words like state or province, unless you’re referring to the government of the jurisdiction in a legal or technical sense: He was born in the state of Alabama but The Province of Newfoundland and Labrador has issued bonds.

It is not (or perhaps that should be NOT) necessary to use an upper-case J every time you write the title judge or justice. Yes, Justice Abella; but There are nine justices of the Supreme Court of Canada and The judge gave brief oral reasons.

In the humanities and social sciences, capitals are disappearing from titles of books and articles (except for the first word and any proper names); it’s also generally regarded as better design to omit capitals in headings and headlines (the way I have in this tip up to this point). This may yet come to the law.


Periods were once de rigueur but now may be omitted for a cleaner look: ABA, FWB, LCBO, NAFTA, MP, Mr, QC, UK, USA, WTF etc.

 Capitals for Important Words

Please resist the temptation to slap a capital letter on a word as a form of emphasis: you run the risk of what was called, in an earlier GWWT, the Winnie-the-Pooh Effect (‘I have been I have been Foolish and Deluded … and I am a Bear of No Brain at All.’).

Next: confusing pairs, part 6

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)


As mentioned earlier this year, CanLII has been adding secondary materials to its database. If you’re looking for recent articles from Canadian law journals, CanLII now offers access to sixteen journals:

  • Alberta Law Review
  • Appeal: Review of Current Law and Law Reform
  • Canadian Bar Review
  • Canadian Journal of Comparative and Contemporary Law
  • Canadian Journal of Human Rights
  • Canadian Law Library Review
  • Canadian Parliamentary Review
  • Dalhousie Journal of Legal Studies
  • LawNow Magazine
  • Manitoba Law Journal
  • McGill Journal of Dispute Resolution
  • McGill Journal of Law and Health
  • McGill Journal of Sustainable Development Law
  • Ottawa Law Review
  • University of New Brunswick Law Journal
  • Windsor Yearbook on Access to Justice

In addition to these journals and the CanLII Connects commentary, CanLII has added books, newsletters, and reports and research papers.

Susannah Tredwell


There is a distinct love-hate relationship between the English and French languages. We’ve borrowed a lot from the French over the years, with mixed results.

All of this goes back a long way (1066, and all that), but shows no sign of abating.

French words we’ve more or less naturalised

There are some borrowings from French that we don’t even think about, because they’ve become fully anglicised, sometimes with changes in spelling: apartment, baton, hotel, parliament.

Sometimes we try to make anglicised French words more French again, for example when we pronounce niche like NEESH, instead of the acclimatised (and perfectly correct) pronunciation NITCH.

Other French words are still in transition, although it appears to be a losing battle to keep the final French –me in program(me). There may be hope yet for manoeuvre against the tide of maneuver.

Accents disappear readily, but not always. A good example is the French-derived word for CV: is it résumé (which would be the correct spelling in French) or resumé (which is common in English)? The pedant in me prefers the former, even though that runs the risk of looking … well … pedantic. So I avoid the issue and just say CV.

Debris is also neither fully English nor French: the E has generally lost its accent, but (as in French) we don’t pronounce the final S.

French expressions which don’t really have an exact English equivalent

Can you come up with pithy English equivalents for je ne sais quoi, joie de vivre, sang-froid, savoir-faire and après-ski?

Keeping one’s cool, perhaps; but know-how isn’t quite the same as savoir-faire – it lacks that certain something?

French expressions which will make you sound pretentious

Basically anything that already has a serviceable and well-established English equivalent.

French expressions which the French don’t really use

And then there is that category of words and phrases used in English and derived from French, but which the French don’t really, actually use. At all. Ever. Some examples follow.

Au jus: Your humble scribe has yet to see this on a menu in France. (And please, don’t say with au jus; au means ‘with’.)

Au naturel: This just means ‘plain, unadorned’ to the French. They say nu (‘naked’) when they mean ‘naked’.

 Brunette: A woman with brown hair is brune or une brune.

Décolletage: One would talk about a woman’s décolleté in French (if one mentioned it at all).

Double entendre: A French person would say double entente or sous-entendu.

Duvet: To a French speaker, this is just the down that fills the quilt, not the quilt itself – which is a couette.

Encore: The French don’t shout this after particularly good performances: they call out bis! (‘repeat’).

Ensuite: This doesn’t mean an adjoining bathroom to a French person; it just mean ‘then’. For the room, say something like salle de bain attenante.

Rapport: In French, ‘a connection’ with someone, whether good or bad; to convey the positive sense this word has in English it would be necessary to say un bon rapport.

Résumé: The French use this, but only to mean ‘summary’; the biographical document is a curriculum vitae.

Risqué: Merely ‘risky’ to the French. For ‘slightly daring or scandalous’, you’d want to say osé.

Not suggesting you use the genuinely French versions of these now-English expressions, however, because the versions we use are so entrenched in English that you’d attract funny looks for trying to be more authentically Gallic.

If it’s any consolation, the French use ‘English’ words that look nothing short of outlandish to us, like le people (celebrities, the beau monde) or even un people (a celebrity); un brushing (blow-dry); un pressing (dry-cleaning); un relooking (make-over) and se faire relooker (to get a make-over); un basket (sports shoe); talkie-walkie (walkie-talkie) – amongst many others. For further reference, see C. Furiassi & H. Gottlieb, Pseudo-English: Studies in False Anglicisms in Europe (2015).

Next time: CAPS

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)


In honour of the Charter’s 35th anniversary, the Department of Justice released the online Charterpedia. As noted on the site:

This Charterpedia provides legal information about the Charter and contains information about the purpose of each section of the Charter, the analysis or test developed through case law in respect of the section, and any particular considerations related to it. Each Charterpedia entry cites relevant case law, and citations to Supreme Court of Canada decisions are hyperlinked whenever possible.

It contains a wealth of information about the Charter by section, including info on similar provisions, purpose, and detailed analysis. Check it out!

[This tip by Melanie Hodges Neufeld originally appeared on the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library’s Legal Sourcery Blog]


An assistant called me recently, asking whether the other side on a transaction was correct to keep inserting an extra L every time the word instalment appeared in an agreement.

The traditional/British spelling is with only one L; the Yanks now generally use two – so I told the assistant to stick to her guns if she felt strongly about it.

Similarly, the classic spellings are fulfil and fulfilment – but one increasingly sees a doubling of the second L in both. Fulfill is listed in the Oxford English Dictionary Online only in the usage examples up to about 1600, but is now usual in the USA. Take your pick (but I know which way I’d go).

Are there any rules? Yes, but they’re tricky and inconsistent. The Atlantic is (as ever) the great divide – leaving Canadians adrift somewhere in the middle.


UK: double final L if the preceding letter is A (befall, enthrall, install; but appal), single if it’s another vowel (distil, instil, enrol, annul)

US: inconsistent? Our American spell-check wants appall, instill and enroll, but is OK with the other single-L spellings in the previous line

Derivatives of verbs ending in L

UK: double the L, unless it’s preceded by a long vowel sound (so, travelled but failed)

US: only one L (traveled, traveler)

Derivatives of nouns or adjectives ending in L

UK: when you add –ed, –er, or –y, the L is generally doubled (jewelled, jeweller, gravelly; but unparalleled); before –ish, –ism and –ist, not doubled (devilish, liberalism, naturalist; but panelist or panellist – and the Oxford prefers the double-L form)

US: generally not doubled after –ed and –er (jeweled, jeweler); panelist

Before –ment

UK: never double the L (fulfilment, instalment)

US: double away (fulfillment, installment)

Derivatives of words ending in –ll

Sometimes the second L disappears: almighty, almost, already, altogether, always (but NEVER alright; it’s two words, all right), skilful (Yanks want skillful), wilful (willful in the US of A)

The second L used to disappear (and still could, really) in dullness and fullness

Totally confused now?

Next writing tip: fractured French

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)


While some of the paid tax resources provide reference tables that show what stage a proposed amendment to the Income Tax Act has reached, how do you figure this out if you don’t have access to one of these resources?

Step 1: What draft legislation are you interested in? Generally tax legislation is published as a “Notice of Ways and Means Motion” before it is introduced as a bill. The Department of Finance Canada provides a listing of all the Notice of Ways and Means Motions back to 2013 at You can also find them on Taxnet Pro at Federal Income Tax > Legislation > Proposed Amendments and Explanatory Notes (Special Releases) and on Knotia under Federal Income Tax Collection > Legislation and Treaties > Proposed/Historical Amendments.

Step 2: Check the Income Tax Act to see it includes these changes. If the legislation has come into force, the Income Tax Act should reflect this. If the changes are not shown in the act, you should check the “Amendments Not in Force” section to see if your draft legislation has got as far as Royal Assent. The House of Commons Procedure and Practice notes that a “ways and means bill must be “based on” but not necessarily “identical to” the provisions of its ways and means motion.”

Step 3: Check the bills that have been introduced since your draft legislation was released. The Department of Finance Canada produces a list of bills that amend the Income Tax Act at

For example if you were asked “has Royal Assent been given to the draft legislation that was dated October 3, 2016?” you could proceed as follows:

  1. Using the October 3, 2016 date, find the Notice of Ways and Means referred to. You can see that it amends sections 40, 54, 107, 108, 152, and 220 at the ITA.
  2. If these amendments have come into force, there should be the following subsection in the definition of “principal residence” in section 54 of the Income Tax Act: (c.1)(iii.1) beginning “if the year begins after 2016…”.  There is, so the answer to the question is yes.

Susannah Tredwell


Linguistic redundancy, not the employment variety. In the linguistic category, there are both legal and non-legal redundancies.

The legal

We’ve seen these before (see ‘Gruesome twosomes‘), but they bear repeating.

Legalese is replete with pairs of words that mean the same thing and therefore don’t need to be used together (except to create a leaden, lawyerly effect).


  • cease and desist [how about plain old stop?]
  • free and clear [one or t’other, not both]
  • full and complete [same comment]
  • if and when [ditto]
  • null and void [just say of no effect]
  • of no force or effect [of no effect works here too]
  • save and except [I hate this]
  • separate and apart [except as a term of art in family law]
  • unless and until [I hate this more than save and except]

 The non-legal

Writing that is non-lawyerly (or not exclusively lawyerly) also suffers from redundancies. Here are some common ones:

  • absolutely necessary [you need something or you don’t]
  • added bonus [a bonus is always added]
  • armed gunman
  • blue in colour [no, it’s just blue]
  • close proximity
  • during the course of [please, just during]
  • each and every
  • exact same
  • face mask [where else?]
  • full gamut [there are no partial gamuts]
  • general consensus [consensus is, by definition, general]
  • mental telepathy [telepathy is communication from one mind to another; it’s always mental]
  • moment in time [a moment is, perforce, in time]
  • new recruit
  • outward appearance [can there be an inward one?]
  • personal belongings [unless you’re nicking someone else’s stuff from the overhead compartment, I guess]
  • personal opinion [it’s no one else’s]
  • PIN number [what do you think the N stands for?]
  • pre-heat, pre-arrange, pre-existing, pre-owned, pre-plan, pre-prepared [all of these involve a prior action or condition before something else happens; pre­- is unnecessary]
  • reason why
  • role model [just model, which doesn’t mean only the runway kind – ‘The rapper is not perhaps the best model for inner-city youth’]
  • safe haven [yeah, you want to avoid the unsafe ones]
  • software programme [that’s what software is]
  • sum total [that’s like saying debit deficit]
  • time period [one or the other; they mean the same thing]
  • terminal building [a terminal is a building]
  • United Together [optimistic but perhaps ill-advised slogan of the 2016 Democratic National Convention; as opposed to?]
  • very true [the truth is not relative]
  • very [or any other modifier] unique [something is unique or it ain’t]
  • weather conditions [weather is a condition, and the conditions would generally include the weather]

 Up next: one L or two?

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)