This introductory material is common to both the online and printed formats of The Bluebook. 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.
ON THIS 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 uniform system of citation in their writing. 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 to one another 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-two 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 provides 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, 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. Finally, there is a comprehensive index.
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.
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 provides 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.
Preface to the Twentieth Edition
This 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 Twentieth Edition. The Bluepages now parallel the Whitepages—helping practitioners cite a broader range of sources and greatly improving cross-references. Typeface rules have been relaxed to accommodate practitioner use of Large and Small Caps. Bluetable BT2 has also been expanded to include more local court citation rules.
In addition to edits for clarity, concision, and consistency, the Twentieth Edition contains the following significant changes: Rule1.4(e) clarifies the order of authorities when federal and state legislative materials are cited together. In rule 1.5(b), the order of parentheticals has been changed to reflect the removal of the “internal quotation marks omitted” and “available at” parentheticals. Rule 3.2(b) provides additional guidance for citing a range of pages and a single footnote within the range in the same citation. Rule 3.5 provides guidance on the naming conventions for subdivisions that are numbered or otherwise designated in a piece. Rule 5.2(d)(i) no longer requires indicating the omission of internal quotation marks. Rule 5.2(f) provides guidance on the use of internal quotation marks. Rule 10.2.1(f) requires the omission of all geographical terms that follow a comma. Rule 10.2.2 clarifies that words in a case name that would be abbreviated according to table T6 should not be abbreviated if the words are part of a state, country, or other geographical unit that is the entire name of a party. Rule 10.9(a)(iii) provides additional guidance on the formation of slip opinion short forms. Rule 11 now provides guidance on the citation of multiple amendments, sections within the same article, and clauses within the same section. Rule 12.9.4 combines former rules 12.9.4 and 12.9.5, provides guidance on citing principles, and revises the citation format of model codes, restatements, standards, and guidelines. Dean Richard Revesz and Professor Robert Sitkoff provided valuable advice and assistance in revising this rule. Rule 13.5 clarifies what year should be cited when a debate occurs in a different year from publication in the Congressional Record. Rule 14.2(b) has been expanded to include detailed information on citing comments to agencies. Examples of citing guidances and manuals have been included in rule 14.2(d) as well as detailed information on citing opinion letters. Rule 14.4 provides detailed information on citing administrative sources found on commercial electronic databases. The citation formats for Ballentine’s Law Dictionary and Black’s Law Dictionary have been updated in rule 15.8(a). Rule 15.9 removes language that requires the use of “available at” in parallel citations. New rule 15.9(c) introduces a citation format for ebooks, stipulating that the print versions of books are authoritative, but that ebooks may be cited if they are the sole media through which the book is available. Rule 16.6(a) requires that opinion pieces in newspapers be cited as “Opinion” rather than“Op-Ed.” Rule 16.6(f) clarifies that online newspapers may be used in place of print newspapers. Rule 18 has been updated in a number of areas to account for the increasing use and varied forms of Internet sources. The rule no longer separately categorizes Internet citations as either direct or parallel; all citations are treated as direct. Rule 18.2.1(b)(ii) provides for the direct citation of Internet sources that share the characteristics of a print source such that they can be fully cited according to another rule, whether or not the source is in print. Rule 18.2.1(d) provides guidance on how to cite Internet sources using archival tools. Rule 18.2.2(a) provides guidance on citing author information on social media platforms. Rules 18.2.2(b)(iii) and 18.2.2(b)(v) detail how to cite titles for blogs contained within a larger website and titles for social media posts, respectively. Rule 18.3 now catalogs where within The Bluebook guidance is provided for citing various sources found on commercial electronic databases. Rule 21 has been expanded to include new rules for citing materials from the International Monetary Fund and the International Criminal Court and has adopted simpler ways of citing United Nations documents. We are grateful to the American Society of International Law for its assistance with rule 21 and tables T3, T4, and T5.
The tables have been updated and expanded. Table T1 has been revised to reflect the most current titles for the various statutory compilations, session laws, and administrative compilations and registers. The abbreviations following the states and District of Columbia in table T1.3 have been revised to follow the abbreviation convention for jurisdiction names in the date parenthetical of cases. The citation formats for these sources have been updated to reflect as accurately as possible the unique breakdown of information within each. Table T2 has been updated to reflect changes in local law and legal citation. The compilers are indebted to the following experts in foreign legal citation for their help in enhancing table T2: Zsuzsanna Antal, Francisco A. Avalos, Annette L. Demers, Christoph Malliet, Yukino Nakashima, E. Dana Neacsu, and Charlotte Stichter. The format of table T13 has been changed from an inclusive list of periodicals to a more general guide to abbreviating periodicals. Table T13.1 contains the abbreviations of common institutional names and table T13.2 lists common words found in periodical titles. The table also prescribes abbreviating geographical terms according to table T10. If a word in a periodical title is not included in any of the previously listed tables, revamped table 13 prescribes including the full word. Terms have been added to tables T6, T8, T14, and T15 as appropriate.
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 Twentieth Edition of The Bluebook.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, omissions, or suggestions for revisions be reported to the Harvard Law Review, Gannett House, 1511 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138.
The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation is 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.