Welcome to The Bluebook, the definitive style guide for legal citation in the United States. For generations, law students, lawyers, scholars, judges, and other legal professionals have relied on The Bluebook’s uniform system of citation. In a diverse and rapidly changing legal profession, The Bluebook continues to provide a systematic method by which members of the profession communicate important information about the sources and legal authorities upon which they rely in their work.

The Bluebook can often be intimidating for new users. This introduction is meant to assist you as you begin what will likely become a lifelong relationship with the Bluebook system of legal citation.

Structure of The Bluebook

The Bluebook contains three major parts. The first part contains the Bluepages, a how-to guide for basic legal citation. Unlike the remainder of The Bluebook, which is designed in a style and at a level of complexity commensurate with the needs of the law journal publication process, the Bluepages provide easy-to-comprehend guidance for the everyday citation needs of law students, summer associates, law clerks, practicing lawyers, and other legal professionals. The examples used throughout the Bluepages are printed using simple typeface conventions common in the legal profession.

The second part, printed on white paper, is the heart of the Bluebook system of citation: the rules of citation and style. This part is subdivided into two main sections: the first section, consisting of rules 1 through 9, establishes general standards of citation and style for use in all forms of legal writing. The second section, consisting of rules 10 through 21, presents rules for citation of specific kinds of authority such as cases, statutes, books, periodicals, and foreign and international materials. The examples used throughout this part are printed using typeface conventions standard in law journal footnotes

The third part consists of a series of tables to be used in conjunction with the rules. The tables show, among other things, which authority to cite and how to abbreviate properly. Individual tables are referenced throughout the book.

General Principles of Citation

The central function of a legal citation is to allow the reader to efficiently locate the cited source. Thus, the citation forms in The Bluebook are designed to provide the information necessary to lead the reader directly to the specific items cited. Because of the ever-increasing range of authorities cited in legal writing, no system of citation can be complete. Therefore, when citing material of a type not explicitly discussed in this book, try to locate an analogous type of authority that is discussed and use that citation form as a model. Always be sure to provide sufficient information to allow the reader to find the cited material quickly and easily.

Getting Started

The Bluepages provide the best place to begin your study of The Bluebook system of legal citation. Indeed, first-year legal writing professors may wish to rely on the Bluepages as a teaching aid. The Bluepages provide only an abbreviated introduction to the Bluebook system, however, and do not contain answers to more difficult citation questions. For this reason, the Bluepages contain references to related rules and tables found in other parts of The Bluebook.