Getting to know the Australian Guide to Legal Citation

The Australian Guide to Legal Citation is an easy-to-use style guide and referencing system suitable for legal and non-legal publications. Commonly known as the AGLC, it has been adopted by many Australian legal journals (The University of Melbourne) and is a must-have resource for legal referencing in Australia.

 An overview of the Australian Guide to Legal Citation

Currently in its third edition, the AGLC is available as a spiral bound book or downloadable PDF. Divided into five main parts, it covers:

  • General rules
  • Domestic sources
  • Secondary sources
  • International materials
  • Foreign domestic materials.

The sixth part, an appendix, contains legal abbreviations and quick reference tables.

In terms of navigation, the printed version is about as easy as it gets. There’s a table of contents, index and helpful tabbed dividers to separate the main sections. Each page also has a printed tab down the margin to help you find what you’re looking for. The PDF version works in much the same fashion. It has an electronic table of contents with hyperlinked bookmarks for each rule. The PDF version is also text searchable.

The style guide and general rules

While the scope of the material covered by the AGLC might seem daunting, it is actually very user-friendly. Part I sets out the general rules. If all you need is a style guide, you could stop right there. It covers things like capitalisation, punctuation and when to italicise foreign words. There’s also guidance on heading levels, using names and titles, and using inclusive language.

If you do need to cite something, the AGLC uses footnote citations, so you’ll find everything you need to know about the general rules of citing with this system. There’s information on when to footnote, where to place footnote numbers in the text, subsequent references and much more. Plus, there is extensive help on using quotations, including tricky topics like punctuation, capitalisation, editing quotations and quotations within quotations.

The citation guide

In addition to the expected advice on citing Australian legal materials, the AGLC addresses citations for a huge variety of other materials. Examples include UN papers, international treaties, written correspondence, interviews, and foreign language materials translated into English.

Parts II to V are segmented to address various sources. With major categories, like cases, a basic example is set out in a table identifying each element of the citation, cross-referenced to a detailed discussion of that element and further examples. For smaller categories, the citation rule is set out within a short explanation of the rule, followed by examples.

Most rules have more than one example. This is extremely helpful, showing how the given rule applies in various situations, for example as an in-text reference, as a footnote, or with a pinpoint reference.

The extra bits

The appendix includes a list of international law report abbreviations, and a table of Australian court and tribunal identifiers. The only things missing are lists of the Justices of the High Court, Commonwealth Governors-General and Australian Prime Ministers (for those, you’ll need the Butterworths Concise Australian Legal Dictionary).

You’ll also find a quick-reference citation guide at the end, complete with examples, and a table showing the correct abbreviations for pinpoint references.

Why you’ll love the Australian Guide to Legal Citation

Its systematic approach and clear structure are some of the great assets of the Australian Guide to Legal Citation. They make what could be a complex topic easy and approachable for the first time user.

The most useful aspect of the AGLC is its wealth of examples. The examples are clear, relevant and helpfully include examples of what not to do, so as to avoid confusion. The content and examples cover a huge range of possible sources, making it a valuable reference for writers and editors in both legal and non-legal fields.

Overall, this citation and style guide is ten out of ten. It’s clear and easy to apply. And if you do happen to find something you want to cite that’s not covered in this wonderful guide, there’s even guidance on that!

Lauren Bevilacqua from Every Last Word is a qualified editor providing business and academic editing and proofreading services, as well as specialist legal proofreading services, to suit a range of projects.

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