Bluebook Citation Style (20th ed.)

The Bluebook style is generally used for legal documents in the United States and is rare even for us, who work on many papers. It features detailed descriptions of how various documents such as judicial opinions, arbitrations, and other materials should be cited. It also features forms for most other resources, which makes it a fully functional citation style. This guide will help you understand the unique nature of Bluebook and apply it in your legal writing to impress educators.

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This guide is developed in line with The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (the Columbia Law Review Association, the Harvard Law Review Association, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, and the Yale Law Journal ed., 20th ed. 2015).

 What is Bluebook Citation Style?

The Bluebook style is exclusively used for legal papers, and so it can be somewhat complicated due to its focus on easy citations of various court documents. The form is a blend between in-text and footnote-based formats, as its citations are located in the text but appear more similar to footnote-based ones. You have to provide the author’s full name, the name of the book, the year of publication, and the page number for the relevant quotation or citation. As such, Bluebook shares some similarities with most other citation styles while closely emulating few to none.

Why You Need to Cite Your Sources

You may be familiar with the need to cite information, but many places also require you to follow a strict guide and a specific style while doing so. Here are some reasons why both of these aspects are critical for your writing and overall career:

  • The point of a paper is to show your understanding of the topic and then reach additional conclusions from there. You show this awareness by citing works in the field that support or oppose your findings.
  • The sources you use have to warrant the trust of a reader, meaning scholars should generally acknowledge them. Peer review is an essential practice that differentiates high-quality sources from inferior ones.
  • When you reference a source, you have to identify what it is and where it may be found in a form that is easy for the reader to understand. Hence, you should adhere to the template lest you commit some mistake that makes the citation unusable.
  • Ultimately, if you are caught plagiarizing, whether intentionally or not, you will be severely punished. You may even be expelled or fired from your organization, receiving a bad mark on your record that will severely tarnish it.

General Principles of Bluebook Formatting

  • Use any acceptable professional font, such as Times New Roman, Courier New, etc.
  • Italics are used in the body of the text for source names and stylistic purposes
  •  Citations are designed to help the reader locate a source
  • Bluebook citation style is designed for both students and researchers to be used in academic writing (The Whitepages) and practitioners (clerks, lawyers, and other legal professionals) to be used in non-academic legal documents (The Bluepages)
  • Citation format of the Whitepages and the Bluepages differs in typeface and elements of citation
  • Authors and titles of books, including institutional authors, titles of periodicals are written in Large and Small Caps
  • Case names in text are written in Italics while in citations, they are written in normal font
  • Case names in text and in citations also differ by the extent to which the case name is abbreviated
  • If Whitepages guidelines fail to cover how to format the source, refer to Bluepages rules.
  • If no information on citing a particular type of document is available, cite it in accordance with the format of the closest alternative

Notes on Bluebook Citations

  •  In law reviews, all citations must be included as footnotes
  • The footnote number should appear after the final punctuation of the quotation
  • In some procedural documents, citations can be made in a citation sentence or a citation clause
  •  Introductory signals, such as e.g., accord, see, see also, Cf., and others are used to indicate the relationship between the citation and the text or other citations.
  • If no signal word is used, this means that the information was directly stated or cited by the chosen authority
  • Id. and short names are used to refer to sources that were mentioned recently:
  •  Same source and page in two or more footnotes: Id.
  • Same source in two or more footnotes, different page numbers: Id., page number.
  • Same source used within the past 5 citations: Short citation (different for each document type).
Sample of Notes on Bluebook Citations

Bluebook Footnote Citation


S. Pac. Co. v. Jensen, 244 U.S. 205, 225-26 (1917)

When citing legal cases, you need to include the following information (in order):

  • First party vs. Second party
  • Reporter volume number
  • Reporter abbreviation
  • First page of the case
  • Specific page referred to
  • Deciding court
  • Date of decision

If a decision has not been reached yet, include as much information as you can in place of the date of decision. For example, if a case was filed but not decided, include the filing date. If the case involves an interim order, whether published or unpublished, include an appropriate mark (order granting preliminary injunction) at the end of the citation in parentheses.


U.S. Const. amend. §1.
U.S. Const. art. I, § 9, cl. 2.

When citing constitutions, include the following information (in order):

  • Abbreviation of the constitution cited
  • Abbreviation for “amendment” (amend.), “article” (art.) or “clause” (cl.)
  • Number of the amendment cited
  • Section symbol and number
  • If the cited provision has been repealed or amended, add amendment date in parentheses or in text

Note: a short form other than id. is not allowed when citing constitutions


National Emergency Management Act, 6 §§ 701-811 (2006)

Short form:

6 U.S.C. § 701

If you need to cite a statute, such as an act, use the following data (in order):

  • Official name of the act
  • Code title number
  • Abbreviation of the code
  • Section containing the statute (with section symbols)
  • Date of code edition used

Bills and Resolutions

H.R. Res. 3452, 104th Cong. (1996)
S. Res. 95, 115th Cong. (2017)

Short forms:

H.R. 3452
S.R. 95

For bills and resolutions, use the following:

  • The name of the bill (if applicable)
  • The abbreviation of the house
  • Bill number
  • Congress number
  • Section number
  • Year of publication


Challenges and Opportunities Facing America’s Schools and Workplaces: Hearing before the H. Comm. on Education and the Workforce, 113th Cong. (2013)

When citing committee hearings, you must include the following information:

  • Full subject matter title
  • Bill number (if applicable)
  • Subcommittee name (if applicable)
  • Committee name
  • Congress number
  • Session number (for State committee hearings)
  • Page number (if citing a specific page)
  • Year

Bluebook Citation for Books, Reports, and Other Non-periodical Materials

As a rule, when citing books, reports, and similar sources, you will need to provide:

  • Author’s full name
  • Title
  • Page cited
  • Editor(s) and translator(s) names (if applicable)
  • Edition number
  • Year of publication

The following page contains some examples of different sources cited in the Bluebook format.

Note: author name(s) and source titles are given in small and large caps.

Book with one or two authors

Rɪᴄʜᴀʀᴅ J. Lᴀᴢᴀʀᴜs, Tʜᴇ Mᴀᴋɪɴɢ ᴏғ Eɴᴠɪʀᴏɴᴍᴇɴᴛᴀʟ Lᴀᴡ 57 (2004).

Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice And Procedure § 1006 (2d ed. 1987).

Book with more than two authors

Kᴀʀᴇɴ Wʜɪᴛᴇ ᴇᴛ ᴀʟ., Tʜᴇ Fᴏʀɢᴏᴛᴛᴇɴ Rᴏᴏᴍ 100 (2016).

Or you may list all authors:

Kᴀʀᴇɴ Wʜɪᴛᴇ, Bᴇᴀᴛʀɪᴢ Wɪʟʟɪᴀᴍs & Lᴀᴜʀᴇɴ Wɪʟʟɪɢ, Tʜᴇ Fᴏʀɢᴏᴛᴛᴇɴ Rᴏᴏᴍ 100 (2016).

Book with editor or translator

Cᴀsᴇs ɪɴ Oɴʟɪɴᴇ Iɴᴛᴇʀᴠɪᴇᴡ Rᴇsᴇᴀʀᴄʜ 30 (Janet Salmons ed., 2011).

Note: do not write editor or translator names in small caps, use a regular font

Book with no author

Lᴀᴡᴍᴇɴ ᴀɴᴅ Oᴜᴛʟᴀᴡs 49-50 (Great Mountain West Supply 1997).

Note: include a publisher in parentheses

Multiple editions of the book

Sᴛᴜᴀʀᴛ Bᴇʟʟ ᴇᴛ ᴀʟ., Eɴᴠɪʀᴏɴᴍᴇɴᴛᴀʟ Lᴀᴡ 187 (8th ed. 2013).

Chapter in an edited book

Sᴛᴜᴀʀᴛ Bᴇʟʟ ᴇᴛ ᴀʟ., International Law and Environmental Protection, in Eɴᴠɪʀᴏɴᴍᴇɴᴛᴀʟ Lᴀᴡ 136 (8th ed. 2013).30.

Bluebook Article Citation

Scholarly journal article

Bernard M. Bass & Paul Steidlmeier, Ethics, Character, and Authentic Transformational Leadership Behavior, 10Lᴇᴀᴅ. Qᴜᴀʀ. 181, 210-212 (1999).
Short form: Bass & Steidlmeier, supra note 1 (first note cited), at page number.

For articles published in scholarly journals, include the following:

  •  Author’s name
  • Article title
  • Journal volume number
  • Abbreviated journal title
  • First page of the article
  • Specific page(s) cited
  • Year of publication

Magazine Articles and Newspapers

Declan Walsh & Eric Schmitt, Arms Sales to Saudis Leave American Fingerprints on Yemen’s Carnage, N.Y. Tɪᴍᴇs, Dec. 25, 2016, at 2.
Short form: Walsh & Schmitt, supra note 1 (first note cited), at page number.

For magazine and newspaper articles, provide the information as listed below:

  • Author’s name
  • Article title
  • Magazine or newspaper title (shortened)
  • Date of publication
  • First page

Bluebook Citation Websites and Electronic Media

The Bluebook citation handbook strongly advises against including electronic sources in the bibliography if they can be cited as a printed source. The following examples are for reference only, and you should still check if a printed version of a source is available before citing it as an electronic source.

Web page

Aᴄᴄᴏʀ Hᴏᴛᴇʟs, Cᴏᴍᴍɪᴛᴍᴇɴᴛ, (last visited Dec. 26, 2018).

PDF documents (corporate author)

Tʜᴇ Cᴏᴄᴀ-Cᴏʟᴀ Cᴏᴍᴘᴀɴʏ, 2017 Sᴜsᴛᴀɪɴᴀʙɪʟɪᴛʏ Rᴇᴘᴏʀᴛ (2018),

PDF document (individual author)

Xiao-Ping Chen, et al., Affective Trust in Chinese Leaders: Linking Paternalistic Leadership to Employee Performance, 40 J. Mᴀɴ. 796, 797 (2014),


Dave Owen, The New WOTUS Proposed Rule and the Myths of Clean Water Act Federalism, Eɴᴠɪʀᴏɴᴍᴇɴᴛᴀʟ Lᴀᴡ Pʀᴏғ. Bʟᴏɢ (Dec. 13, 2018, 1:21 PM),

Bluebook Citation for Other Sources

There are many other types of sources that you might be required to cite in the Bluebook format. Some examples will be included below. Sources that do not match any of the categories in the guide should be cited like the next best alternative included in the guide.

Note: Short forms for these sources should be created using the abbreviations “supra” or “id.”

Student-written law review materials

Abraham Bell & Gideon Parchomovsky, Article, The Case for Imperfect Enforcement of Property Rights, 160 U. Pᴀ. L. Rᴇᴠ. 1927, 1929-1930 (2012).

Proceedings, regular publications by institutes, and ABA section reports

Sarah Zappe et al., Flipping the Classroom to Explore Active Learning in a Large Undergraduate Course, 116 ASEE Aɴɴ. Cᴏɴғ. Exᴘ. Pʀᴏᴄ.284 (2009).

Unpublished and forthcoming sources

Stephen B. Burbank & Tobias Barrington Wolf, Class Actions, Statutes of Limitations and Repose, and Federal Common Law, 167 U. Pᴀ. L. Rᴇᴠ. (forthcoming Dec. 2018)

E-mail correspondence

E-mail from Anna Smith, Dir. of Operations, Organization, to Jayden Smith, Assoc. Prof., Organization (Dec. 25, 2018, 09:55 EST) (on file with author).


Telephone interview with Margaret Wilson, Editor, Organization (Nov. 19, 2016).
Interview with Margaret Wilson, Editor, Organization, in City, State (Mar. 24, 1998).

Working papers

Jay P. Greene & Greg Forster, Public High School Graduation and College Readiness Rates in the United States 1 (Ctr. for Civic Innovation, Working Paper No. 3, 2003).

Note: “Ctr. for Civic Innovation” is the name of the sponsoring organization.

Intergovernmental Organizations

Ahmad Reza Hosseinpoor et al., Sᴛᴀᴛᴇ ᴏғ Iɴᴇǫᴜᴀʟɪᴛʏ: Rᴇᴘʀᴏᴅᴜᴄᴛɪᴠᴇ, Mᴀᴛᴇʀɴᴀʟ, Nᴇᴡʙᴏʀɴ ᴀɴᴅ Cʜɪʟᴅ Hᴇᴀʟᴛʜ, Wᴏʀʟᴅ Hᴇᴀʟᴛʜ Oɢᴀɴɪᴢᴀɪᴛɪᴏɴ [WHO] (2015),

lnt’l Civil Aviation Org. [ICAO], 2012 Annual Report of the Council, ICAO Doc. 10001 (2012),

Tables and Figures in Bluebook Style

The Bluebook citation style is somewhat unique in its laissez-faire approach to the formatting of your paper. It exists to ensure that your citations are accurate and precise and limits itself to that task. As such, you are free to format tables and figures however you see fit. Nevertheless, it is probably best to follow some other styling format, so this guide will provide an example using the Chicago style of formatting (see figure 1).

Figure 1: Glass World.

Figure 1: Glass World.

Source: Environmental Science, Careers in Environmental Science, Nepa Ceqa Manager, (last visited Jul. 19, 2019).

Notably, Bluebook does not require the use of a bibliography, so a single mention of the reference in the text is sufficient. However, it has remarkably strict rules about referencing that you can find in the book that gives its name to the style. As many images and figures will be taken from online sources, you should remember a few basic guidelines. First, the format discourages the use of any strictly online resources. Second, if you are citing an electronic version of a print document, you can mention it as though you were using that print document. However, if that document would be challenging to obtain, you should make it clear that you are using an electronic version in the reference. Lastly, you should think carefully before inserting tables or figures into a legal document, as they usually only contain formatted text.

Reference List

1.    Glass world [image on the Internet] 2018. [cited August 18, 2019]. Available from:×425.jpeg

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