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Bluebook Citation: Common Building Block Rules

This guide provides the basics for first year memorandums and upper class papers and journals.

Grammar, textual - citation sentences.

Remember that citations are sentences. They follow, as much as the blue book rules allow, sentence rules. E.g. capital letter to start and a period at the end. As with all legal writing, there are two spaces between sentences.

Signals - Rule 1.2

Signals are overly numerous and nebulous, and a citation sentence can include more than one. What are signals? Signals indicate in a citation the level and type of support a citation gives to the contextual sentence from which the footnote is appended to. Signals 

There are five types of signals:

  • Rule 1.2(a): signals that indicate support
  • Rule 1.2(b): signals that suggest useful comparisons
  • Rule 1.2(c): signals that indicate contradiction
  • Rule 1.2(d): signals  that indicate background material
  • Rule 1.2(e): signals used as verbs

According to Rule 1.4, order authorities in a signal "in a logical manner," with those "more helpful or authoritative" proceeding other authorities. Distinct authorities are separated by semicolons. 

Page Numbering - Rule 3.2(a)

Page Numbers are addressed by Rule 3.2(a).

Page numbers appear before the date parenthetical. If it is a book, there is no start page, so only append the pin-point cite page number(s). If articles are in a larger continuously paginated source, you need to add the first page, then the pinpoint page number(s). If the pin point cite refers to the first page, duplicate the number.

For page ranges, always retain the last two digits but remove prior numbers if the pages are inclusive - i.e. 1245-98, 1034-1122. 

Short Citation Forms - Rule 4

Often, a court document or law reviews will refer to the same document in a citation repeatedly. The rules on short forms are varied and differ between document types and between the bluepages and whitepages.

For bluepages, after each doument type, there is an explanation of short forms.

For whitepages, Rule 4 provides a list of subrules on short forms for each material type.

Non-material type short form tools include the use of "id." (Rule 4.1) and supra (Rule 4.2(a)).

In law reviews, there is often an unwritten rule not to use "ids." more than five times in a row. Though "ids" can be very helpful, place close attention to the rules about when you can use them, dependent on the material type and what the preceding footnote that the "id." is referring to contains. Note the period is part of the "id.", and as such, should also be italicized.

Parentheticals - Rule 1.5

Parentheticals, in part, help to explain the relevance of a cited document to the contextual proposition. However, beware from over using them. Always ask yourself if the parenthetical explanation is really needed, either in that it should be in the text if important enough, or you are just attempting to fill in space by superfluous parentheticals.

Parenthetical explanations start with the present participial phrase (an "ing" word), is an exact quote, or when it is forcing the issue to use the former, a short statement.

Example: Caesar v. Pompey, 84 R.R. 345 (2003) (extolling the parties for not mediating).

NOTE: a space between the parentheticals, no capitalization of first word.


Eliminate spaces between single capitals - which includes number/letter combinations for circuits or editions (Rule 6.1). For example: S.E.2d, S.D.N.Y.2d, Fed. Cir. or D. Mass, etc.

Remeber that in legal writing, there are two spaces between sentences, and this includes citation sentences.

Other Elements

Capitalization (Rule 8)

See Rule 8, and the rules are generally common sense, but note the exceptions. For example capitalize any court when naming in full, or always when referring to the United States Supreme Court.

Quotations (Rule 5)

Things to note - quotations of fifty or more words need to be indented (Rule 5.1(a)(i)), and if the quote has paragraphs, copy(Rule 5.1(a)(ii). Quotations of fewer words require quotation marks (Rule 5.1(b)(i).

Alterations to quotations (Rule 5.2)

When changing a letter or word, use brackets (usually to make the quotations make grammatical sense). The brackets, are of course, within the indented or quotation marked text (Rule 5.2(a). Mistakes should be indicated by [sic] - leave the mistake! This is covered by Rule 5.2(c). If you add highlights to a quotation (i.e. not changing the lettering but font style, then indicate at the end within a parenthetical, example: (emphasis added) (Rule 5.2(d)(i).

Omissions in quotations (Rule 5.3)

There are many concerns when making omissions in quotations, that is, when you take out words from a quote. This is often the case when you want to quote lines that may be separated by something not as relevant. The bluebook uses ellipsis to indicate an omission - which is what? Three periods in a row. Read over the rule subdivisions to see when and how to use it. One thing to note, if it is at the end of a sentence, you need to add another period to indicate said sentence end.