Importance of Bluebook guidelines in legal writing


Bluebook guidelines in legal writing are relevant as they aid the easier comprehension of legal research and writings as it make it easier to identify the sources of information used. There are three major parts of the Bluebook guidelines. In the first part of the Bluebook guidelines is the part known as the Blue pages which contain “a how-to guide for basic legal citation”. The Blue pages unlike the other parts of the bluebook have easy-to-comprehend guidance which can be utilized for a writer’s or researcher’s everyday citation needs.

The second part of the bluebook is known and referred to as the white paper containing the rules of citation and styles of referencing and writings. This second part is categorized into two main categories where the first category covering Rules 1 through 9, prescribes the general standards of citation and style which may be used in all manners of legal writing and research. The second category of the white paper covers rules 10 through 21, which prescribes the rules for citation of particular forms of authority in the likes of cases, statutes, books, periodicals, and international materials.

The final part of the bluebook covers a series of tables that can be applied alongside the rules. Under these tables, the authorities to be cited are shown as well as how to make proper abbreviations. Also, the bluebook has a comprehensive index.

Specific Rules under the Bluebook Guidelines

From this point, this discourse will rely more on practical examples and illustrations.


The basic model for citing cases is:

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Party Name v. Party Name, Volume Reporter Page (Court Year) (parenthetical)

A good example will be as below:

United States v. Legault, 323 F. Supp. 2d 217 (D. Mass. 2004) (Jonas, J., dissenting) (noting historical examples).

In the case of documents meant to be filed or used in court, the names of the parties should be underlined in the exception of the comma and note that all complete sentences for a citation must be ended with a full stop. Where it has to with Law Journals and Law Reviews: Do not underline party names but italicize procedural phrases.

In citing a case, the given names or first names are removed as only the surnames or last names are retained. For example, Chris Mayor becomes Mayor. Any form of words that indicate multiple parties or merely serve as descriptive terms should be removed, Macmillan et al. v. Hales, Administrator becomes Macmillan v. Hales

On no account should the “State of”, “Commonwealth of” and “People of” be used in describing or designating parties in a case where a state is a party unless such terms as mentioned are only to indicate the location of the court where a decision is made. Therefore, State of Michigan v. Andre Philip, 26 Mc. 345 (2013) becomes State v. Philip, 26 Mc. 345 (2013).

In another example, Peter Drew v. State of Texas, 17 U.S. 451 (2012) becomes Drew v. Texas, 17 U.S. 345 (2012). There is a difference between the first example and the second one. In the first place, the case is in the Michigan Supreme Court, therefore State replaces Michigan, but in the second example the case is in the Supreme Court of the US, therefore the name of the state, Texas, is the name of the party as designated above. Accordingly, geographical designations that come after a comma should be removed in the following form: City of San Jose, California becomes the City of San Jose.


Volume Number: The volume of the case reporter as noted on the reporter spine or inside cover.

On the issues of Reporters, which Report to cite and Reporter Abbreviations; the documents to be used or filed in courts, should always be in accordance with the citation rules of the local court. Whereas for all other documentation, law journals and law reviews, the rules are roughly as outlined below:

(1) Cite to the regional reporter,

(2) If an opinion is available in a public citation format, cite to that and parallel cite the regional reporter

The bluebook also provided for forms of abbreviations covering specifics which some examples have been reproduced below:

Atlantic as A.

North Eastern as N.E.

North Western as N.W.

Pacific as P.

Example of Reporter abbreviations are stated below:

Federal Reporter (federal appeals) as F.

Federal Supplement (federal district courts) as F. Supp.

United States Reports as U.S.

In the case of year, a researcher or writer should insert the year of decision and where decisions have not been published in any official reporter, the exact date should be specified.

Parenthetical can be for the purpose of providing substantive information: Truce v. Mark, 556 Illn. 232 (2011) (Determining the relevancy of Documentary evidence).

Or the weight of the authority cited: Truce v. Mark, 556 Illn. 232 (2011) (per curiam).

Citing Articles

Model for consecutively paginated journal articles

Author(s), Title, Periodical Name (year) (parenthetical).

Model for an online newspaper article

Author(s), Title, Periodical Name, Date of Issue, hyperlink.

Note that for court documents, the title of the article should be underlined while for Law Reviews or law journals, the titles should be italicised and while periodical title should be in small caps. Also, no word should be omitted or abbreviated in or from an article title. Each word forming the title should be capitalised. However, articles, conjunctions, and prepositions that are fewer or equal to four letters should not be capitalised except in a case where they are beginning the title or they are immediately following a colon.


Citing Books


Volume (if any), Author(s) full name, Title Pinpoint cite (Edition if any, year).

6 Austin W. Scott, The Law of Trusts 115 (4th ed. 1990).


The contents in the foregoing discourse is an overview to aid students, researchers, writers, lawyers, paralegals, professionals, teachers, and jurists to navigate the processes involved in legal writing and aid the understanding of Bluebook guidelines. This discourse does not displace the need to acquaint oneself with the contents of the bluebook guidelines itself; what it does is to simplify the provisions of the bluebook guidelines and if followed accordingly will aid readers’ or users’ understanding of the bluebook guideline and aid the effective usages and applications.

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