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Bluebook 101

Basic information for getting started with The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation

PART 1: Blue Pages


The Bluebook (pp. 1-56) is printed on blue paper and is called The Bluepages, which are:

"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."e

The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation 1 (Columbia Law Review Ass'n et al. eds., 20th ed. 1st prtg. 2015).

PART 2: White Pages (The Heart of the Bluebook)

Main part of The Bluebook, with the complex and detailed rules of citation and style.

Rules 1-9 contain general citation and formatting rules.

Rules 10-21 contain citation and formatting rules for specific types of materials (e.g., cases, statutes, foreign materials, etc.).

PART 2A: General Standards of Citation & Style

Rules 1-9 "establish general standards of citation and style for all forms of legal writing."

Major stuff contained in these general rules:

>Rule Commonly-Used Portions of the Rule Where to Find Them
Rule 1, Structure and Use of Citations

Signals: you use signals to connect and distinguish citations from each other and from your textual material

1.2, pp. 58-60

Order of authorities within each signal: rules about what types of authorities are listed before others in a citation string

1.4, pp. 61-63

Parentheticals: (giving the rules about how to use parentheticals in citations to explain something about the source you're citing)

1.5, pp. 64-65
Rule 2, Typefaces for Law Reviews

Typeface conventions for citations: when cited, different sources (e.g., cases, statutes, books) have different typeface rules.

2.1, pp. 67-69

Typeface conventions for textual material: when referring to a source within the text of your writing, the typeface rules are simpler than in a citation 2.2, pp. 69-70
Rule 3, Subdivisions Page numbers: The Bluebook requires you to cite to specific pages of the materials you're citing to, often offsetting your page from the rest of the citation with the word "at"

3.2(a), pp. 72-73

Sections: When it's appropriate to use the "§" for materials that aren't separated by page numbers (e.g., statutes)

3.3(a)-(b), pp. 75-76

Internal cross-references: how to refer to other portions of your writing within the writing itself using supra  (to material appearing later) and infra (to material appearing earlier) 3.5, p. 77
Rule 4, Short Citation Forms

Id.: citing to the same source that you've cited to in the sentence/footnote directly preceding your current sentence/footnote

<4.1, pp. 78-79

Supra: some types of sources (non-primary sources) need only be fully-cited once and can later be referred back to using supra.

4.2(a), p. 80

Hereinafter: used to shorten the formal title of a book or article to make it easier to short cite to it in subsequent citations. 4.2(b), pp. 80-81
Block quotations of fifty words or more: how you format your longer quotations in the text and in footnotes >5.1, pp. 82-83
Alterations of quotations: changing the formatting of an original quotation so that it fits grammatically and content-wise into your writing 5.2, pp. 83-85
Omissions: leaving out a word or a sentence in a quote using an ellipsis (. . .) 5.3, pp. 85-86
Rule 6, Abbreviations, Numerals, and Symbols Abbreviations: refers you to all of the Tables (back of The Bluebook) containing the proper abbreviations for sources, geographical locations, dates, etc. 6.1, pp. 87-88
Numbers and symbols: when to use a number or symbol and when to spell the word out (9 vs. nine). 6.2, p. 89
Foreign words and phrases: some foreign words should be italicized while others should not 7(b), p. 90
Rule 8, Capitalization Special rules for what words should and should not be capitalized in legal writing pp. 91-93
Rule 9, Titles of Judges, Officials, and Terms of Court Special rules for how to refer to judges and terms in text and citations p. 94


PART 2B: Rules for Specific Kinds of Authority

Rule Commonly-Used Portions of the Rule Where to Find It
Rule 10, Cases Case name in textual sentence vs. in citations: the typeface is different 10.2, p. 96
General case name rules: how many parties to list, procedural phrases, proper abbreviations, omitting "the", geographic terms, business firm designations 10.2.1, pp. 96-99
Reporters and parallel citations: the same case often appears in more than one official source (aka, a case reporter). This rule tells you which reporter is preferable 10.3.2, pp. 103-104
Court and jurisdiction: how to insert the proper abbreviated name of the court and state/circuit into a case citation 10.4, pp. 104-106
Date: rules differ depending on how/whether the case was published 10.5, pp. 106-107
Case parentheticals: adds additional information to Rule 1.5 (see above) that is specific to parentheticals in case citations 10.6, pp. 107-108
Briefs, court filings, and transcripts: materials associated with a case but that aren't judicial opinions themselves 10.8, pp. 113-115
Short forms for cases: adds additional information to Rule 4 (see above) that is specific to short forms of case citations 10.9, pp. 115-118
Rule 11, Constitutions Special rules for citing to state, federal, foreign constitutions and their amendments pp. 118-119
Rule 12, Statutes Statutes currently in force vs. no longer in force: the rules are different if the statute you're citing to is no longer in force 12.2, pp. 121-122
Official vs. unofficial codes: the federal and state governments all have an "official" version of their code that The Bluebook requires you to cite to. Some official versions are printed by the government itself; some by commercial publishers. Unofficial versions are printed by commercial publishers. 12.3, pp. 123-124
Year of the code: rules about citing to the most current printing of the official code 12.3.2, pp. 124-125
Session laws: statutes as they're printed and arranged chronologically in the order that they were passed by legislative session and before they are organized by subject in a statutory code 12.4, pp. 125-126
Ordinances: local government "legislation" 12.9.2, p. 130
Model codes, principles, restatements, standard sentencing guidelines, and uniform acts: cited like statutes even though they're not technically primary law like statutes are 12.9.4, pp. 131-133
Short forms for statutes: adds additional information to Rule 4 (see above) that is specific to short forms of statute citations 12.10, pp. 133-134
Rule 13, Legislative Materials Bills and Resolutions: how to cite to legislation before it is passed by Congress and signed by the President/Governor 13.2, pp. 136-137
Hearings: citing legislative history in official legislative/public discussion on a topic or bill 13.3, pp. 137-138
Reports, documents, committee prints: other legislative history materials put out by legislators in the process of getting a bill passed through Congress 13.4, pp. 138-140
Debates: officially printed records of discussions of the members of a congressional body 13.5, p. 140
Short forms for legislative materials: adds additional information to Rule 4 (see above) that is specific to short forms of citations to legislative materials 13.8, pp. 141-142
Rule 14, Administrative and Executive Materials Rules & regulations: official primary documents from administrative bodies that generally apply to everyone in the affected area (like statutes) 14.2, pp. 143-145
Administrative adjudications and arbitrations: official primary decisions from administrative bodies that typically apply only to the parties in the matter at hand (like cases) 14.3, pp. 145-147
Short forms for regulations: adds additional information to Rule 4 (see above) that is specific to short forms of citations to administrative materials 14.5, pp. 147-148
Rule 15, Books, Reports, and Other Nonperiodic Materials Authors: can be individuals, groups, or institutional (names of which will be abbreviated) 15.1, pp. 149-150
Title: following capitalization rules from Rule 8 (above) 15.3, p. 151
Edition, publisher, date: unlike most other writing style formats, legal writing citations do not generally need the publisher but should generally include the year and the edition 15.4, pp 152-153
Special citation forms: some frequently-used legal books (e.g., Black's Law Dictionary, The Bible, The Bluebook) have special citation formats 15.8, pp. 155-156
Electronic media and online sources: citation rules for these materials in addition to those in Rule 18 15.9, pp. 156-157
Consecutively paginated journals: where multiple issues in the same year are part of the same page numbering scheme (e.g., volume 12, issue 1 is pp. 1-302; volume 12, issue 2 is pp. 303-586) 16.4, p. 162
Nonconsecutively paginated journals: like traditional magazines, where each issue starts back a page 1 16.5, pp. 162-163
Newspapers: special rules for citing information in print and online newspapers 16.6, pp. 163-164
Electronic media and online sources: citation to periodical materials online/in a database in addition to the rules in Rule 18 (below) 16.8, p. 169
Short citation forms: adds additional information to Rule 4 (see above) that is specific to short forms of citations to periodical materials 16.9, pp. 170-171
Rule 17, Unpublished and Forthcoming Sources Manuscripts, dissertations, letters, memos, press releases, emails, interviews, speeches, forthcoming works, working papers in print and electronic form, along with rules for short citation to them pp. 172-177
>Rule 18, The Internet, Electronic Media, and Other Nonprint Resources When you should be citing to a resource available on the Internet (instead of print): rules for the particular situations where it's appropriate to cite to a resource on the Internet 18.2.1, p. 180-181
How to cite to Internet sources: rules for author, titles, main page titles, blogs, social media, URLs, and databases 18.2.2, pp. 182-186
Films, broadcasts, audio recordings: movies, TV programs, radio, podcasts 18.6-18.7, pp. 187-188
Short citation forms: adds additional information to Rule 4 (see above) that is specific to short forms of citations to Internet/electronic/nonprint resources 18.8, pp. 188-189
Rule 19, Services Applies to primary and secondary materials that are published/republished within a topical compilation called a "service" (often looseleafs, sometimes bound volumes or their electronic database equivalents). pp. 190-191
Rule 20, Foreign Materials How to cite to both primary and secondary sources from another country pp. 193-199
Rule 21, International Materials How to cite to both primary and secondary sources relating to the law/agreements among and between nations and international organizations. pp. 200-231


PART 3: Tables

The Tables give information about specific topics that should be used along with The Bluebook's rules. Here is the purpose of each of the tables:

Explanation of Major Provisions Page Range
T1, United States Jurisdictions Abbreviations and citation conventions unique to the federal government and each state. Includes information about how to cite to both official and unofficial reporters, statutory codes, session laws, and administrative compilations pp. 233-306
T2, Foreign Jurisdictions Abbreviations and citation conventions unique to many nations pp. 307-490
T3, Intergovernmental Organizations Abbreviations and citation conventions for intergovernmental bodies: United Nations, League of Nations, European Union, European Commission of Human Rights, European Court of Human Rights, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Inter-American Court of Human Rights, International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, and abbreviations for a number of additional intergovernmental organizations pp. 491-495
T4, Treaty Sources Official and unofficial sources where treaties are published pp. 494-495
T5, Arbitral Reporters Publications where arbitral decisions are published pp. 495-496
T6, Case Names and Institutional Authors in Citations Abbreviations for common words in case names and institutional author titles. Perhaps the most-used pages of The Bluebook for a legal writer pp. 496-498
T7, Court Names Common court name abbreviations pp. 498-500
T8, Explanatory Phrases List of explanatory phrases commonly used to demonstrate the prior or subsequent history of a case pp. 500-501
T9, Legislative Documents List of abbreviations for words commonly used in the titles of legislative documents pp. 501-502
T10, Geographical Terms Abbreviations for countries, states, Canadian provinces, regions, cities, and territories pp. 502-509
T11, Judges and Officials Abbreviations for judges' and other officials' titles p. 509
T12, Months Month abbreviations p. 510
T13, Periodicals Institutions: abbreviations for organizations and law school names which, when combined with the abbreviations from T13.2 Common Words are used to create abbreviated journal titles T13.1, pp. 511-513
Common words: combined with the abbreviations in T13.1, Institutions, to create the proper citation format for a periodical title T13.2, pp. 513-517
T14, Publishing Terms Abbreviations for common terms used in publishing pp. 517-518
T15, Services Used in conjunction with the citation rules from Rule 19 above, this table gives you abbreviated titles for the proper citation of a number of common services pp. 518-522
T16, Subdivisions Abbreviations for names of document subdivisions that are used frequently in legal citation pp. 522-523
Index Much more thorough list than this one of all of the topics covered in The Bluebook pp. 525-560