The Bluebook is considered as the official referencing style in the American legal profession. The system comes in very handy when citing resources among law scholars and practitioners. Currently in its 21st edition, the Bluebook can be described as a little bit challenging and unwieldy for first-timers.


Even with the bottlenecks, the Bluebook remains one of the most crucial materials that all students in law school must be acquainted to. Well, here’s a brief guide to the bluebook legal citation format that every student in law school must be accustomed to:


Short form citations

You may only use short form citations after citing a particular authority in full once. Even though the elements of a short-form citation in the Bluebook system will be flexible, it will depend on the nature of authority being cited. However, the acceptable short-forms will be considered in all entries.


You may use the abbreviation id. as a short form. In this case, id is used to reveal that the short-form citation in question is of the same authority as the former.


Citing court cases

You must include the following elements when citing a court case in the Bluebook legal citation guide:

ü  Case name

ü  The source where the case was found

ü  The court that decided the case

ü  The time (year) when the decision of the case was made

You may include other parenthetical pieces of information after you are done with the citation. Such information may include:

Ø  A brief explanation of why the case is relevant to the topic under investigation

Ø  A quotation from the case

o   You may follow this information with the subsequent history of the case by incorporating elements like the later affirmations attributed to the case


Nevertheless, you will be required to make a general summary when citing the case name.


There are a few exceptions when dealing with multiple defendants or plaintiffs. In this case, the Bluebook system only mandates you to list the first party in each category. The names of the other individuals attached to the case will be shortened to the surname only.  You MUST never include the first or middle names, et al., “aka”, or initials.


Generally, the Bluebook system gives you the permission to abbreviate the court case being cited to the highest degree possible without altering with the necessary information. For instance, the Bluebook recommends that procedural phrases should be abbreviated as “in re”, or “Ex parte”. 

Similarly, you may use certain commonly understood abbreviations when dealing with commonly known parties like “Univ.” to represent “University”; “F.R.D” for Federal Rules Deciosionsis and “W.D.Pa” for United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.


Remember, most of the sources and courts will have their official abbreviation that must be used for the citation purposes. Such citations are conspicuous and readily available for those who desire to use them.



The page number used in case citations in the Bluebook system will be the page where the litigation starts in the source. However, the bluebook system provides room for referencing a particular page alongsi0de the general case. In this case, you will have to separate the page from the general with a comma. For instance, if you are referencing a case that starts from page 45, but you specifically desire to point a sentence that is eleven pages in, then the page number o-f your citation will be “45,56.”

            Generally, court cases should take the fashion:

            Case Name, Page number from the source (Court year) (any additional information).


United States ex rel. Mayo Gerald v. Agents of Satan, 54 F.R.D. 281 (W.D. Pa. 1975) (“plaintiff failed to include with his complaint the required form of instructions for the U.S  Marshal for directions as to service of process”).

Similarly, the Bluebook system grants you the allowance to shorten the case name by adopting the first party alone, or even using the abbreviated form of the title of the first party. However, this may not be very useful if the first party is a geographical unit, governmental institution, or other creation of such caliber as there are very many cases that tag the U.S government. Therefore, citing “United States” doesn’t narrow down the case into a useful reference. In such cases, it would be advisable tocite the second party’s name.


When citing a particular point of the case, it is advisable to use the page number alone, while eliminating the page number where the case starts.


                        Case Name in short form, Source at page number

                        Ex rel.  Mayo, 45 F.R.D at 271.


Citing constitutions

The following abbreviations will come in very handy when citing sections of a constitution:

Section of the constitution















The Bluebook system requires you to use an abbreviated title when citing a constitution of a government entity then specifies the part of the document where you are referring to. However, you need to set the title of the constitution in small caps, with each subdivision being separated using a comma in the order of decreasing size as shown below:

            Title of the Constitution subdivision, subdivision.

Tenn. Const. art. XX, §5.



The following format should apply when citing a repelled or amended constitution:

                        U.S. Const. amend. XVII (repealed 1935).

Here, the parenthesis is used to denote the date of the fact.


Note: there are no short forms for constitutional citations in the Bluebook system.


Citing statutes, codes and laws

Citation involving federal statutes, codes, and laws must include:

ü  Title of the act or statute

ü  The source where the statute was found

ü  Year of enactment (for sessional laws) or year of publication for codes

ü  Sections or chapters being referred to

The following format should be adopted when dealing with federal statutes and codes:

            Title of the Act, Source § number (year).


The Guano Islands Act, 47 U.S.C. ch. 11 §§1412-15 (2014).

Ga. Code Ann. § 37-9-14 (2013).