Language guidelines

This guide’s primary references for spelling and grammar are the Canadian Press Stylebook, as well as the Canadian Oxford Dictionary.

Abbreviations and acronyms 

In general, spell out the name of a university, faculty, or organization on first reference, and include the abbreviated version or acronym in parentheses if it will be referred to again in the document.   

  • The Institute for Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies (IGSF) 
  • School of Continuing Studies (SCS) 

Try to use acronyms and abbreviations sparingly; too many can be disruptive and may negatively impact the user experience. If possible, use an alternative form (e.g., ‘the institute’) for the organization in subsequent references.  


Today’s writing style standards have shifted towards less capitalization. Usability studies have shown that this “modified-down style”, as the Canadian Press calls it, is easier to read when caps are limited.  

Titles and headings 

McGill’s digital communications use sentence case for titles and headings rather than title case. With sentence case, you only capitalize the first letter of the first word in a title or heading - like you would in a sentence. Proper nouns also have a capital. Title case, on the other hand, capitalizes every major word. 

  • This is an example of sentence case 
  • This Is an Example of Title Case 

Capitalize formal names. Use lower case in subsequent partial or informal forms:  

  • the Faculty of Science, the faculty, faculty members 
  • the Government of Canada, the Canadian government, the government 

Common university terms 

  • Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 semesters, not fall and winter 
  • ‘the University’ is capitalized only when referring to McGill. Try to use an alternative form, such as McGill. 
  • The word ‘campus’ should only be capitalized when referring to our two campuses: 
  • Downtown Campus and Macdonald Campus 


In keeping with the Canadian Press style, this guide favours British-English over American spelling in most cases. 

-our, not -or: 

  • labour but laborious 
  • behaviour 
  • honour, honourable, honoured but honorary 

-re, not -er: 

  • centre 
  • theatre 
  • metre 

However, this guide follows the American pattern of using -ize/-yze, rather than -ise/-yse: 

  • criticize 
  • organize 
  • capitalize 

Common university terms 

  • advisor, not adviser 
  • catalogue, not catalog 
  • counsellor, not counselor 
  • enrolment, not enrollment 
  • program, not programme 


Canadian Press Stylebook

Canadian Oxford Dictionary

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