Government Style

Montreal Syllabus Translation

With the ushering in of Canada’s new federal government comes a slew of texts talking about shadow cabinets, ministers, oppositions, prime ministers-elect, and other governmental topics.

If you’re wondering how to handle such terms, your best bet is the Canadian Style—a free and fairly comprehensive writing tool. Then there’s the Canadian Press, which is by subscription but is a handy online source that’s updated on a regular basis—in case you’ve still got a 30-year-old Gage dictionary on your desk.

Here are five fun takeaways—I’ll leave the rest to you for happy reading.

  • Smothered with American news, we’re tempted to write prime minister-elect. And yet, unlike our neighbours to the south, we don’t actually cast a vote for our prime minister. Canadians vote for members of Parliament and, if enough of them get in, their leader becomes the prime minister-designate.
  • In the era of social media, haters are everywhere. In Parliament, they are respectfully called the Opposition or the official Opposition. So when do we cap this term? The Canadian Press tells us: “Capitalize Opposition when referring to the official Opposition, the non-governing party with the most seats.” For instance, there is only one official Opposition leader, but there are two opposition parties.
  • If you’ve been following the news lately, you may have noticed that some ministry names have changed. Best to go to the source and make sure you’re not still writing things like the Minister of Industry, which doesn’t exist anymore. The position is now called the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.
  • Watch out for the letter s—this single letter wields a surprising amount of power! Add it to a title and it’s time to lowercase, for instance: ministers.
  • And finally, keep an eye out for words with multiple uses, such as conservative and liberal. Lowercase when there are used in their everyday sense, but uppercase when they are used in a political sense.

Have any Canadian political writing tips you’d like to share? Let us know!

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