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The Bluebook  
Discipline Law
Publication details
Publication history
Frequency Varies
OCLC no. 636020715

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The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, a style guide, prescribes the most widely used legal citation system in the United States. The Bluebook is compiled by the Harvard Law Review Association, the Columbia Law Review, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, and the Yale Law Journal. Currently, it is in its 20th edition. It is so named because its cover is blue (see photo).

The Bluebook is taught and used at a majority of U.S. law schools, and is also used in a majority of U.S. federal courts. Alternative legal citation style guides exist, including the Maroonbook and the ALWD Citation Manual. There are also several "house" citation styles used by legal publishers in their works.

The U.S. Supreme Court uses its own unique citation style in its opinions, even though most of the justices and their law clerks obtained their legal education at law schools that use The Bluebook.[citation needed] Furthermore, many state courts have their own citation rules that take precedence over The Bluebook for documents filed with those courts. Some of the local rules are simple modifications to The Bluebook system, such as Maryland's requirement that citations to Maryland cases include a reference to the official Maryland reporter. Delaware's Supreme Court has promulgated rules of citation for unreported cases markedly different from The Bluebook standards, and custom in that state as to the citation format of the Delaware Code also differs from The Bluebook.[citation needed] In other states, notably New York, California, Texas, and Michigan, the local rules are different from The Bluebook in that they use their own style guides. Attorneys in those states who practice both in federal court and state court must be able to switch seamlessly between citation styles depending upon whether their work product is intended for a federal or state court.

An online subscription version of The Bluebook was launched in 2008.[1] A mobile version was launched in 2012 within the rulebook app, an app that allows lawyers, scholars, judges, law students, paralegals, and others involved in the legal profession to reference federal and state court rules, codes, and style manuals on iPad and other mobile devices.[2]


The 20th edition of The Bluebook governs the style and formatting of various references and elements of a legal publication, including:

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  • Structure and Use of Citations
  • Typefaces for Law Reviews
  • Subdivisions
  • Short Citation Forms
  • Quotations
  • Abbreviations, Numerals, and Symbols
  • Italicization for Style and in Unique Circumstances
  • Capitalization
  • Titles of Judges, Officials, and Terms of Court
  • Cases
  • Constitutions
  • Statutes
  • Legislative Materials
  • Administrative and Executive Materials
  • Books, Reports, and Other Nonperiodic Materials
  • Periodical Materials
  • Unpublished and Forthcoming Sources
  • Electronic Media and Other Nonprint Resources
  • Services
  • Foreign Materials
  • International Materials


The origin of The Bluebook was a pamphlet for proper citation forms for articles in the Harvard Law Review written by its editor, Erwin Griswold.[3] In 1939, the cover of the book was changed from brown to a "more patriotic blue" to avoid comparison with a color associated with Nazi Germany.[4] The full text of the first (1926) through the fifteenth (1991) editions are available on the official website.[5]

The Bluebook uses two different styles. The first is used by practitioners in preparing court documents and memoranda, while the second is used primarily in academic settings, such as law reviews and journals.[6] The later uses specific formatting to identify types of references, such as the use of small caps for books, newspapers, and law reviews.[7] A rule of thumb used by many is to see if the formatting can be reproduced on a typewriter—if so, it is used by practitioners, if it requires typesetting, it is used for academic articles.[7]

By 2011, The Bluebook was "the main guide and source of authority" on legal references for the past 90 years.[8] It is recognized as the "gold standard" for legal references in the United States, even though it originally was designed only to help teach law students how to cite cases and other legal material.[9] Although other citation systems exist, they have limited acceptance, and in general, The Bluebook is followed in legal citation as the most widely accepted citation style.[10] Some states have adopted The Bluebook in full, while others have partially adopted The Bluebook.[11] States such as Texas have supplements, such as the "Greenbook", that merely address citation issues unique to Texas and otherwise follow The Bluebook.[12]



The Solicitor General issues a style guide that is designed to supplement The Bluebook.[13] This guide focuses on citation for practitioners, so as an example, only two type faces are used for law reviews, normal and italics.[14] Other changes are also minor, such as moving supra from before the page referenced to after the page number.[15] The guide does state that unless explicitly specified otherwise, The Bluebook rule takes precedence in the event of conflict.[16]


California used to require use of the California Style Manual.[17] In 2008, the California Supreme Court issued a rule giving an option of using either the California Style Manual or The Bluebook.[18] The two styles are significantly different in citing cases, in use of Ibid or Id. (for Idem), and in citing books and journals.[19] Michigan uses a separate official citation system, issued as an administrative order of the Michigan Supreme Court.[20] The primary difference is that the Michigan system "omits all periods in citations, uses italics somewhat differently, and does not use 'small caps.'"[21] As noted, Texas merely supplements The Bluebook with items that are unique to Texas courts, such as citing to cases when Texas was an independent republic,[22] petition and writ history,[23] Attorney General Opinions,[24] and similar issues.


At over 500 pages for the 19th edition, The Bluebook is significantly more complicated than the citation systems used by most other fields. Legal scholars have called for its replacement with a simpler system.[25] The University of Chicago uses the simplified "Maroonbook",[26] and even simpler systems are in use by other parties.

Judge Richard Posner is "one of the founding fathers of Bluebook abolitionism, having advocated it for almost twenty-five years, ever since his 1986 University of Chicago Law Review article[27] on the subject." In a 2011 Yale Law Journal article, he wrote:

The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation exemplifies hypertrophy in the anthropological sense. It is a monstrous growth, remote from the functional need for legal citation forms, that serves obscure needs of the legal culture and its student subculture.[25]

He wrote that a cursory look at the Nineteenth Edition "put [him] in mind of Mr. Kurtz’s dying words in Heart of Darkness—'The horror! The horror!' " [25]

Posner personally uses a far simpler citation system based largely on the First Edition of the Bluebook. This system, which he includes in a manual he provides for his law clerks, was reprinted in the aforementioned Yale Law Journal article. At the time of the article, his citation system was 885 words long, or about two printed pages—far shorter than the 511 pages of the Nineteenth Edition, the 640 pages of the then-current ALWD Citation Manual, or the over 1,000 pages of the Chicago Manual of Style.[25]

Another area of dispute is regarding the copyright status of the Bluebook. Open-source advocates claim that the Bluebook is not protected under copyright because it is a critical piece of legal infrastructure; however, lawyers who represent the Bluebook publishing consortium claim that the "carefully curated examples, explanations and other textual materials" are protected by copyright.[28]

See also


  1. The Bluebook Legal Citation Guide Now Available Online, Yale Law School, (Feb. 22, 2008) (archived from original Oct. 9, 2013).
  2. Law Librarianship in the Digital Age 142 (Ellyssa Kroski ed. 2013); Gabriella Khorasanee, There's An App For That: Top 10 Apps for Law Students,, (Aug. 23, 2013) (archived from original Dec. 6, 2013).
  3. Christine Hurt, The Bluebook at Eighteen: Reflecting and Ratifying Current Trends in Legal Scholarship, 82 Ind. L.J. 49, 51-52 (2007).
  4. A. Darby Dickerson, An Un-Uniform System of Citation: Surviving with the New Bluebook, 26 Stetson L. Rev. 53, 58-60 (1996).
  5. Introduction,, (2010), (archived from the original June 24, 2013).
  6. Deborah E. Bouchoux, Cite-Checker: A Hands-on Guide to Learning Citation Form 9 (2001).
  7. 7.0 7.1 Bouchoux, at 9-10.
  8. William H. Putman, Legal Research, Analysis, and Writing 468 (4th ed. 2011).
  9. Bouchoux, at 1-2.
  10. Putman, at 468; Bouchoux, at 2; Kroski, at 263.
  11. Putman, at 468-69.
  12. Brandon D. Quarles & Matthew C. Cordon, Legal Research for the Texas Practitioner 16 (2003); The Greenbook: Texas Rules of Form iv (12th ed. 2010).
  13. The Solicitor General's Style Guide 1 (Jack Metzler ed. 2007).
  14. Metzler, at 14.
  15. Metzler, at 20.
  16. Metzler, at 1.
  17. Edward W. Jessen, California Style Manual 1 (4th ed. 2000).
  18. 2013 Calif. R. of Ct. 1.200; The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation 30 (Mary Miles Prince ed., 19th ed. 2010).
  19. Legal Research and Writing Manual, UCLA School of Law (2013).
  20. Elan S. Nichols, Checklists for Drafting, Formatting, and Submitting Litigation and Other Documents: Instructive Material for Law Students Practicing in Law School Clinics, and Reminders for the Practicing Attorney and Her Staff, 15 T.M. Cooley J. Prac. & Clinical L. 57, 58 (2013).
  21. Nichols, at 58 n.3.
  22. The Greenbook, at 101.
  23. The Greenbook, at 20-26.
  24. The Greenbook, at 76-78.
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3 Richard A. Posner, The Bluebook Blues, 120 Yale L.J. 850-861 (2011).
  26. 80 The University of Chicago Manual of Legal Citation 1 (Bradley G. Hubbard, Taylor A.R. Meehan, & Kenneth A. Young eds. 2013).
  27. Richard A. Posner, Goodbye to the Bluebook, 53 Chi. L. Rev. 1343 (1986).
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External links