Bluebook Guide

The purpose of this guide is to introduce The Bluebook and basic concepts of legal citation to new law students.

What Is It?

The Bluebook is the style manual that governs how American legal documents are cited in legal memoranda, court documents, and law journals. It is published by the editors of the law journals at Columbia University, Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University.

As of this writing, The Bluebook is in the first printing of the 20th Edition.

The Bluebook is not the only legal citation manual available. The Association of Legal Writing Directors publishes the ALWD Guide to Legal Citation, and the University of Chicago publishes the University of Chicago Manual of Legal Citation ("The Maroonbook").

Additionally, a number of states and courts have developed alternative legal citation systems or have different citation requirements. Legal practitioners in these jurisdictions will need to be aware of these particular requirements when they prepare and submit legal documents. Table 2 in the "Bluepages" of The Bluebook lists jurisdiction-specific citation rules and style guides. 

The Bluebook, however, remains the dominant citation manual for American law.

Bluebook Layout

As with any reference book, The Bluebook becomes easier to use once you know where to find the information you need. The Bluebook consists of four main sections.  

The first section is the "Bluepages," which provide information on basic legal citation.  The Bluepages contain condensed versions of the full rules and are intended to "provide easy-to-comprehend guidance for . . . everyday citation needs." (The Bluebook, p. 1). The next section is the full rules on citation and style.  There are currently twenty-one rules on the basic standards of citation and how to cite specific legal documents.  The third section contains sixteen tables that provide information on the proper authorities to cite and lists of abbreviations. Finally, The Bluebook has an index in the back that will help you find applicable rules.

The following table summarizes the main rules (R) and tables (T) of The Bluebook that will likely be most relevant to first-year law students.  Typeface conventions are addressed in the text of The Bluebook (B).

Rule/Table Page Nos. Description
B2 6-7 Typeface conventions for court documents and legal memoranda
R1.2, R1.3 & R1.4 58-63 Introductory signals, order of signals, and order of authorities within signals
R4 78-81 Short citation forms (i.e., citing materials cited previously)
R5 82-86 Formatting quotations
R10 94-117 Citing cases
R11 118-119 Citing constitutions
R12 120-134 Citing statutes
R14 143-148 Citing regulations and administrative materials
R18 178-189 Citing electronic sources and Internet sources
T1 233-306 Preferred U.S. federal and state sources and abbreviations

now online only 

Foreign jurisdictions
T6 496-498 Abbreviations for case names

For a complete list of all the rules and tables, see the back cover of The Bluebook.