The Bluebook

This introductory material is common to both the online and printed formats of The Bluebook. A multimedia introduction specific to The Bluebook Online® is available on this site's Tour page; additional material introducing the online format is available on this site's Help page. A description of The Bluebook's structure of Rules and Tables additional to the one below is also available at section 3.1 of the Help page.



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 unique 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 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.


The Bluebook contains three major parts. The first part is 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 first-year 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 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. Finally, there is a comprehensive index.


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.


The Bluepages provide the best place to begin 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 will 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 book.

Preface to the Nineteenth Edition

The current edition of The Bluebook retains the same basic approach to legal citation established by its predecessors. The layout of The Bluebook has been updated to make the information easier to access. Some citation forms have been expanded, elaborated upon, or modified from previous editions to reflect the ever-expanding range of authorities used in legal writing and to respond to suggestions from the legal community. Here are some of the more noteworthy changes:

The Bluepages, introduced in the Eighteenth Edition, have been considerably overhauled for the Nineteenth Edition. In addition to general expansion and clarification, the Bluepages now include detailed information for citation to Electronic Case Files (ECF) documents. Bluepages table BT2 has also been updated and expanded to include more local citation rules. Please note that these rules, which many state and federal courts promulgate, take precedence over Bluebook rules in documents submitted to those courts. When preparing court documents, always check the most recent version of the court’s local citation rules.

In addition to edits for clarity, concision, and consistency, the Nineteenth Edition contains the following significant changes: Rule 1.5(b) now provides comprehensive guidance on the order of multiple parentheticals in a single citation. Rule 10.4(b) now allows omission of the jurisdiction and court abbreviation of state courts if unambiguously conveyed by the reporter title. Rule 10.6.1(c) now provides guidance on citation to seriatim opinions of the early Supreme Court. Rule 10.8.3 now provides details for citations to audio recordings of court proceedings. Rule 13.4(d) now establishes specific citation formats for Congressional Research Services and Government Accountability Office reports. Rule 14 has been considerably revised to improve citation to administrative agency materials. The rule itself, however, is now shorter as many details on citation to specific agencies have been moved to table T1.2. Rule 16.6 now includes provisions for citation to wire services.

Rule 18 has changed considerably, primarily to allow increased citation to Internet sources. Specific changes include: Rule 18.2.1(a) now provides guidance allowing citation to authenticated and official Internet sources as well as exact digital scans of print sources as if they were the original print source. These changes in rule 18 allowing citation to official, authenticated, or exact Internet copies of cited materials are also reflected in rules 10, 12, 15, 16, and 17. Guidance for citation to webpage titles of main pages and subheadings has been expanded in rule 18.2.2(b). Rule 18.2.2(a) now states that when no author of an Internet source is clearly announced, the author information should be omitted from the citation, unless there is a clear institutional owner of the domain. Additionally, institutional authors of Internet sources should be abbreviated according to rule 15.1(d). Rule 18.2.2(c) now states that citations to Internet sources should be dated as they appear on the Internet site, using only dates that refer clearly to the material cited. When material is undated, the date of the author's last visit to the website should be placed in a parenthetical after the URL. Rule 18.2.2(c) now also states that for blogs and other frequently updated websites, citations should include timestamps whenever possible. Rule 18.2.2(h) still encourages the archiving of Internet sources, but does not require the citation to indicate the location of an archival copy. Rules 18.6 and 18.7 now allow for the use of timestamps in citations to audio and video recordings. Rule 18.7.3 now provides citation guidance for podcasts and online recordings. Professor James Grimmelmann provided vital advice and assistance in revising rule 18.

Rule 20 has been expanded to provide clearer guidance and more comprehensive examples. William B. McCloy aided in the revision to Rule 20. Rule 21 has been updated and now includes improved citations to United Nations materials. Rule 21 also specifies the citation format for the International Criminal Court. The American Society of International Law assisted in the revision to rule 21, as well as tables T3 through T5. Maria Smolka-Day also provided assistance with the revisions to rule 21, and Patricio Nazareno aided in revising citations to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

All of the tables have been revised and updated. Table T1 has been subdivided into four sections: T1.1 (Federal Judicial and Legislative Materials), T1.2 (Federal Administrative and Executive Materials), T1.3 (States and the District of Columbia), and T1.4 (Other United States Jurisdictions). Table T1.2 represents a significant expansion in the coverage of administrative agency materials. Many federal agencies and the Board and Staff of the Administrative Law Review provided vital assistance in revising and expanding table T1.2. The following were instrumental in constructing citation formats related to government contracts in table T1.2: Philip Green, Jason Daniel Morgan, and Richard Lieberman, all of the George Washington University Law School. Table T2 has incorporated significant organizational and substantive improvements for each existing country, and seven new countries have been added: Belgium, Chile, Colombia, Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan, and South Korea. The compilers are indebted to the following experts in foreign legal citation for their help in enhancing table T2: Francisco A. Avalos, Annette L. Demers, Christoph Malliet, William B. McCloy, Michael Newton, Yukino Nakashima, and E. Dana Neacsu.

The compilers wish to thank our Coordinating Editor Mary Miles Prince for working with us in revising, clarifying, updating, and improving The Bluebook. The compilers would also like to acknowledge outside commentators who contributed their expertise to the Nineteenth Edition of The Bluebook. The following provided invaluable assistance in planning and revising this edition: Hongxia Liu, Kersi Shroff, and Andrew Weber. The compilers are grateful to the law journal editors, law librarians, and practitioners who responded to our call for suggestions with helpful advice and comments.

Finally, the compilers request that any errors or omissions be reported and that suggestions for revisions be sent to the Harvard Law Review, Gannett House, 1511 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138.


The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citationis compiled by the editors of the Columbia Law Review, the Harvard Law Review, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, and The Yale Law Journal. The Bluebook is published and distributed by the Harvard Law Review Association. The Coordinating Editor of The Bluebook is Mary Miles Prince, Associate Director, Vanderbilt University Law School Library, with special editorial assistance on the citations of foreign jurisdictions from the Directorate of Legal Research of the Law Library of Congress.

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