Skip to Main Content

Cite Checking Guide for Law Reviews & Publication: Bluebook Tips

The Bluebook rules (that's a verb) with few exceptions!

For law review editors, most legal publishers, and judges and practitioners, too, the Bluebook is the citation rule book of choice. Within the Bluebook, and also in supporting materials, help can be found for deciphering the rules of citation. Some advice and sources are offered here. The 21st edition of the Bluebook was published in July, 2020.  Some of the major changes from the 20th edition are featured in the preface to the 21st Edition. Some contributing authors will continue to use older editions of the Bluebook and it will be left to the members of the publishing law review to bring outdated citations into compliance. You must use the most recent version for journal editing, with very few exceptions. Some of the changes in the new edition are significant and quite helpful.  

Bluebook Checklist

Bluebook Checklist 

  1. Use the Quick Reference: Law Review Footnotes table located on the front inside cover of the Bluebook to help you identify the appropriate rule for the type of authority cited.  CAVEAT: Note that the citations are for illustration purposes only and do not cover the nuances of each rule.  ALWAYS review the relevant rules in their entirety.

  2. Use the index at the back of the Bluebook when you begin to search for applicable rules. Use it for most if not every source you are cite checking.  The Index provides useful cross-references and will help you learn the categories of citation.

  3. Confirm that the preferred source has been used  by the author for the type of authority cited.  Citation must be to the preferred source if possible.  The tables for primary authority will list preferred sources as will the specific rules for different types of authority if multiple sources exist (e.g., Rule 21.4.5 Treaty Sources).

  4. Verify that the proper typeface, abbreviations, capitalization, and short citation forms (if applicable) have been used for each type of authority.  The Bluebook index often isolates short form and long form citations.

  5. Verify that id., supra, infra and hereinafter are used correctly.

  6. Use the actual source to verify that the appropriate signal and, where necessary, parenthetical have been used to indicate how an authority relates to the proposition being made. For assistance locating official and other Bluebook-approved sources, use guides provided by your law review editors, as well as this guide, Cite Checking Guide for Law Reviews & Publication.

  7. Include pinpoint citations, like page numbers or statute sections, to the exact location within the authority that relates to the proposition made in the text of the law journal note or article.

  8. Verify that the date provided conforms to the rule for the type of authority cited. As a general rule, citation will be to the year.

Deciphering Abbreviations

The library has several resources that can help you decipher the meaning of abbreviations and acronyms you come across in a source. Table 6 and many other parts of the Bluebook provide specific abbreviations for citing cases names, etc.  Often, it is best to use the Bluebook index, look up "abbreviations" and consult the categories for abbreviations listed there. 

For help identifying an unfamiliar abbreviation in a source, consider:

Prince’s Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations (KF 246. B5 located in the reference area): Focuses on U.S. legal materials. Available in print and on Lexis.

Index to Legal Citations and Abbreviations (KD 400. R35 located in the reference area): Focuses on U.K. and Ireland, the Commonwealth and the U.S., but many more countries from accross Europe, Africa, Asia and South America are represented. Updated by the Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations.

World Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations (K 89.K38 located in reference area): Focuses on foreign law abbreviations; arranged by language and/or country.  

Bluebook Aids

Try reader aids for the Bluebook if you need help understanding its citation methods:

Bluebook Insider Tip

If auxiliary sources do not have a helpful Bluebook example, or you are struggling with an unusual citation, you might want to check to see if it was cited in a previously published article.  Search the Law Journal Library in HeinOnline for the source you need to cite.  HeinOnline, unlike Lexis or Westlaw, offers PDF images from the actual print sources, so the citations will be in proper typeface. 

Check to see if the publication has been cited in a recent article in the Columbia Law Review, Harvard Law Review, University of Pennsylvania Law Review, or the Yale Law Journal.  The editors of these four law journals are the compilers and publishers of The Bluebook. A recent citation of your publication in these journals may be the most accurate.  If the citing journal pre-dates the 21st edition of the Bluebook (published in 2020), make sure you are satisfied the new edition has not altered the citation format for your source.  If you need to compare earlier editions of the Bluebook, you will find them in the stacks on the second floor of the library.