Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Bluebook Legal Citation System Guide

Welcome

This is a guide to the Bluebook system of American legal citation. The information here can help anyone who is writing a scholarly legal paper in the United States, including JD students, LLM students, and SJD students.

The Bluebook is currently in its 21st edition, released in June 2020. It is available in two formats: as a print book, and as an electronic publication.  To buy a print copy or a subscription to the electronic version, visit https://www.legalbluebook.com/.

All references to print book page number in this guide are from the 21st edition.

The Bluebook: An Overview

The Bluebook has two sections:

  • The Bluepages section: citation rules for documents written by practitioners, like legal memoranda and court filings. 
  • The Whitepages section: citation rules for legal academic publications, including law journal articles.

Since law school work focuses on academic writing, this guide describes and explains the rules in the Whitepages section.

Citation Rule Categories

  • Rules 1-8 (pp. 61-94): Style rules, including typeface, capitalization, abbreviation, quotations, and cross references.  
  • Rules for citing primary sources:
    • Rule 10 (p. 95): Cases
    • Rule 11 (p. 119): Constitutions 
    • Rule 12 (p. 120): Statutes, Codes, and Session Laws
    • Rule 13 (p. 135): Legislative Materials (including Congressional documents)
    • Rule 14 (p. 142): Administrative and Executive Materials
  • Rules for citing secondary sources:
    • Rule 15 (p. 147): Books, Reports, and other Nonperiodic Materials
    • Rule 16 (p. 157): Periodical Materials (including journal articles and newspapers)
    • Rule 17 (p. 169): Unpublished and Forthcoming Sources
  • Rules for citing non-print sources, including internet and other electronic sources: Rule 18 (p. 174)
  • Rules for citing foreign (non-U.S.) materials: Rule 20 (p. 188)
  • Rules for citing international materials: Rule 21 (p. 195)

Tables

Table 1 (p. 227) has jurisdiction-specific rules for citing U.S. federal and state cases, statutes, and other primary legal materials.

Table 2 has rules for citing sources from selected foreign jurisdictions.  It is no longer in the print version of the Bluebook, but it is freely available online at https://www.legalbluebook.com/bluebook/v21/tables/t2-foreign-jurisdictions.

Tables 3 (international organizations, p. 299) and 4 (treaties, p. 302) have rules for citing international sources.

Finally, many Bluebook rules require certain names, words, and phrases to be shortened.  Tables 6-16 (starting on p. 304) list these abbreviations.