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Bluebook Guide: Introduction

Introduction to legal citation adapted from, Georgetown Law Library (current as of 9/24/16).

The Bluebook Guide

    "I have not read the nineteenth edition. I have dipped into it, much as one might dip one's toes in a pail of freezing water. I am put in mind of Mr. Kurtz's dying words in Heart of Darkness : '—'The horror! The horror!'—and am tempted to end there.'"

Judge Richard A  Posner, The Bluebook Blues


Few books cause students as much dread, pain, anger, and frustration as The Bluebook. Formally titled The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, it is the style manual for citing to legal documents within the United States. Now in its 20th edition, more than an inch thick, and consisting of over 500 pages of guidance on legal citation, needless to say, it's large, a bit unwieldy, and challenging at first. However, it is an essential book that many people in legal professions should know how to use.

Most of The Bluebook, however, is irrelevant for many people who create legal documents. You can ignore more than two-thirds of the book if all you need to do is to cite cases and statutes.  In fact, if you're dealing only with cases, litigation documents and laws, you might be able to find the answer to your question using the cheat sheet on the inside back cover.


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Susan Lydon
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