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The Bluebook: A Systematic Approach: General Hints

Developing Confidence





·         OK, it’s big. So don’t bother to memorize every rule. Instead use the Step-by-Step Approach outlined in this guide.

·         Tab your Bluebook. If you use particular rules or tables frequently, tab them. In the beginning, you’ll probably be tabbing Rules 6, 10 and 12 and Table 1 and the beginning of the Abbreviations section, Tables 6 through 12.  

·         Realize that The Bluebook tries to cover every contingency. You’ll probably be using no more than 20% of the rules contained in the book.

·         Resign yourself to the fact that you’ll be going to more than one place to find all the components to a citation. The sooner you make peace with this concept, the better off you’ll be.

Solving the Typeface Problem



Some of the greatest confusion about The Bluebook revolves around the fact that the examples are presented as law review footnotes when most of its users (including you) are not writing as law review authors. Law review footnotes have a unique typeface convention: The Use of Large and Small Caps for certain information. 


Let’s break this down. Large and Small Caps are used in law review footnotes for three things:


·         Book Authors

·         Book titles

·         Journal titles


That’s it. Three things. So what do you do when you’re not writing a law review footnote?  In other words, almost all the time.


·         You use ordinary Roman type, never, ever large and small caps.

·         You underline or italicize titles of books and journal articles.


So here’s a book citation:


Charles J. Reid, Power over the Body, Equality in the Family: Rights and Domestic Relations in Medieval Canon Law (2004).


Ordinary Roman type for the author’s name, italics for the book title.


And one to a periodical:


Joel A. Nichols, Evangelicals and Human Rights: The Continuing Ambivalence of Evangelical Christians’ Support for Human Rights, 24 J.L. & Religion 629 (2008).


Ordinary Roman type for the author’s name and the journal title, italics for the article title. 


(You’ll notice that the journal title, The Journal of Law and Religion, is abbreviated. To find where lists of abbreviations are located, look at the mini-index in this guide.)


Bottom line on typeface. You’re never, ever going to be using large and small caps. Never. Ever. Until you make Law Journal.


Information based on Rule B1.


What If There's No Rule!???


Here’s what The Bluebook says about that, right on Page 1:


“Because of the ever-increasing range of authorities cited in legal writing, no system of citation can be complete. Therefore when citing material of a type not explicitly discussed in this book, try to locate an analogous type of authority that is discussed and use that citation form as a model. Always be sure to provide sufficient information to allow the reader to find the cited material quickly and easily.”