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Bluebook Legal Citation

A guide to legal citation using Bluebook rules.

Introduction to the Guide


Legal citation strives to enable a reader to find and verify the accuracy of sources used by an author. The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation is the most widely used rules manual for academic and professional legal citation in the US. This Tarlton guide is a basic introduction to the Bluebook and concentrates on academic legal citation, i.e., writing for law reviews.

The Bluebook is jointly edited by the editorial boards of law reviews from Columbia, Harvard, Penn, and Yale. Whereas the Bluebook's citation rules for professional legal citation, such as memoranda and briefs, are relatively streamlined, the Bluebook's academic rules have long been critized as unnecessarily complex.  In response, other citation manuals have been created, the most prominent of which is the ALWD Citation Manual, generally referred to as "ALWD" (pronounced "All Wood"). Nevertheless, the Bluebook remains dominant.

Cheat Sheet

Do you want to cut to the chase? Check out the Bluebook's "Quick Reference" pages on the front inside cover for examples of law review footnotes.

Still Uncertain How to Cite?

When the Bluebook leaves you hanging, try to

  1. Work from a model. Search for the citation you need in a law review database to see how another article cited it. As authors of the Bluebook, law reviews from Columbia, Harvard, Penn, and Yale should provide good models.
  2. Work from analogy. The Bluebook's introduction counsels you to "try to locate an analogous type of authority that is discussed and use that citation form as a model."

Texas Law Review's The Greenbook

The Greenbook, published by the Texas Law Review, is a supplement to the Bluebook adopted by some law reviews. Most of the rules are the same, but the Greenbook should be followed when there is a conflict in citing Texas authorities. Please see this guide's tab on the Greenbook for more information.

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