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Bluebook Citations: Common Mistakes

Guide to basic legal citations to the 20th ed. of The Bluebook.

Bluebook Style Rules

Rules 1-9

The first nine rules in the Bluebook apply to all of the other rules and they are all about style.

For example, if you are citing a secondary authority with a title, consult Rule 8 Capitalization, to know whether you need to capitalize certain words or not. 

Another example: page numbers - how do you know how many digits to include in inclusive page numbers. Is it 113-119? Or, is it 113-19? Or, is it 113 to 119? Rule 3.2 helps you understand what to do with numbers.

Try This Yourself

  • The first time you look something up in the index, underline it.
  • The next time, highlight it.
  • The third time, put a flag on the page.

Common Mistkaes by 1Ls

Citations are to the 20th edition of The Bluebook, A Uniform System of Citation.

Westlaw and LexisNexis Citations Aren't Bluebooked

One mistake students and attorneys alike make is assuming that research systems like Westlaw and Lexis Advance provide properly Bluebooked citations. This is usually incorrect, but the citations these services produce look pretty good. Be sure to verify the components of a proper citation, especially the abbreviation.  A citation copied directly from Westlaw, in particular, is easy to identify, because the source name will be an abbreviation, but not one approved by the Bluebook.

Cases

  1. Forgetting to put a court designation in the court and date parenthetical when the reporter information is not sufficient.
  2. Guessing on the abbreviations in case names instead of checking Table 6.
  3. Omitting the volume and reporter information in a case short form.
  4. Omitting the comma between the case name and the volume information in a case short form.
  5. Omitting the space between "F." and "Supp." for cases reported in the Federal Supplement.
  6. Omitting the space between "Supp." and "2d" for cases reported in the Federal Supplement, Second Series.
  7. Abbreviating U.S. instead of writing it out "United States" when the party is the United States. (See R10.2.2)
  8. Forgetting to put the word, "Annotation," in an A.L.R. citation. (See R16.7.6)

Statutes

  1. Omitting the date or currency statement in the parenthetical for a citation to a statute found on Westlaw or Lexis Advance.

Forgetting Punctuation at the end of the citation sentence or clause.