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Bluebook LibGuide


The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, 21st Ed. ("the Bluebook") is the definitive style manual for legal documents and legal academic publishing in the United States.  It provides a system of rules for legal citations so that readers can locate the sources cited.  The Bluebook 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.

This guide is primarily intended for first year law students and others just starting out with the Bluebook. Some material in this guide, including links, will require a College of Law intranet password, a CALI password, or a Lexis password. 

This guide is intended to supplement, not replace, the Bluebook by breaking down the components of common citations and providing examples. This guide provides alternate information based on whether you are using the bluepages or the whitepages (see the box to the left).  You will find pages on how to cite cases, statutes, and periodicals in both full and short form.

Bluebook Terminology

The Bluebook uses specialized terminology to describe its citations.  This glossary defines some of the terms you'll find in the Bluebook.  As always,  your best source for what a Bluebook term means is the Bluebook itself.  Check the index!

Full citation: the citation form used the first time an authority is cited in your document; contains all required information

Short cite (short form): citation form sometimes used after an authority has already been cited with a full citation; contains less information than a full cite

Parenthetical: part of a citation that is contained in parentheses (hence the name); usually at the end of the citation, often contains dates

Pincite (short for Pinpoint citation): used to indicate the exact page on which the cited material appears

Regional reporter: West's publication for state court decisions.  The Bluebook requires citation to these reporters except where you are submitting a document to a state court.  For more information on the regional reporter system, see Westlaw.

Consecutively paginated journals: Paginated throughout an entire volume, regardless of whether there are separate "issues" within that volume.  Most law journals use this format. 

Signal: lets the reader know the relationship between what you said and the source you're citing.  For example, use "see" to introduce an authority that supports, but does not directly state your proposition.  Bluepages B1.2, Whitepages R1.2

Blue or White?

The perils of cut and paste

Word of warning, the citations you get when you copy a citation from Lexis or Westlaw are not in Bluebook format! 

Westlaw and LexisAdvance allow you to copy citations in "Standard" Bluebook format, but they don't know if you're supposed to be in the Bluepages or Whitepages, so you can't rely on the citation without checking to see if it is correct. 

Reading the Bluebook

Inside front cover: has examples of commonly used citation forms in the typefaces used in law review footnotes, corresponds with the Whitepages. This is helpful when you’re feeling relatively comfortable with how to put the elements of the citation together, and simply need a refresher.

Preface: explains changes made between 20th and 21st editions.  If you never used the 20th edition, skip this section. (p. VII)

Table of Contents: great to get a bird's eye view of the structure of the entire book.  (p. X)

Bluepages: rules geared toward practitioner documents. (p. 3)

Whitepages: rules geared toward academic legal writing. (p. 57)

Tables: referenced throughout the rules, these tables provide details like abbreviations for case names and which authority to cite for foreign materials. (p. 233)

Index: look up particular rules, refers to page numbers, not rule numbers (p. 525)

Inside back cover: has examples of commonly used citation forms in the typefaces used in court documents and legal memoranda, corresponds with the Bluepages.

Full Citation v. Short Form

The first time an authority is cited in your document, it gets a "full citation."

When that authority is cited later in the document, you may be able to use a "short form," depending on the application of the rule.  The short form that you use will depend, as always, on what type of document you are writing (bluepages v. whitepages) and on the type of source (is it a case or a statute?).

For example, B4 is the Bluepages rule for caselaw citation.  B4.1 gives the rules for full citation for cases and B4.2 provides the rules for the short forms for cases. 

Print vs. Online Access to the Bluebook

You can access the Bluebook's website at  With a subscription, you can access an online version of the Bluebook at this site.  The Bluebook that you purchased for your first  year classes does not automatically come with an online subscription.  If you would like to take a look at the online version for free, visit the law library's reference desk.

There are many opinions when it comes to the online Bluebook.  Many students prefer to use the paper version because they can put tabs to jump right to frequently used rules.  You can bookmark rules in the online version, but there's nothing quite like a bright yellow strip of paper!  The paper version is also easier to thumb through in order to find a rule.  Besides, you're required to buy the paper version as a 1L so you should already own it. 

On the other hand, many students like the ability to search the rules online.  You may find it easier to access the information on your computer, and it will definitely cut down on the number of books in your bag.

Even without a subscription to the online Bluebook, you can still see the Blue Tips.  These are citation tips written by the editors of the Bluebook based on questions they received about the Bluebook.

Legal Research and Writing Guides

The Law Library has several resources dedicated to legal research and writing. Please drop by the library and peruse our Practical Skills collection.

Additional Help with the Bluebook