From IPE: Looking Like A Bluebook Pro when Preparing a Practice Document

Looking Like A Bluebook Pro when Preparing a Practice Document
guest author: Kathleen B. Carlson

View Original Article… [cToolsOfTheTradeSeptember2017.htm]

Sign up for the IPE mailing list by clicking HERE.

The “BluePages” in the Bluebook do a pretty good job of illustrating the basic formats for developing citations for use in legal documents prepared in a practice setting. Most writers will be able to create a passable citation by looking at the examples the “BluePages” provide in the sections which focus on the citation forms for particular types of legal publications. However, there are a number of additional rules hiding in other sections of the “BluePages,” and in the “WhitePages,” that are often overlooked. It is adherence to these “picky detail” rules that will make your document stand out and will make you look like a real Bluebook Pro.

Proper Typeface

Court documents and other practice materials use ordinary type and either italicization or underlining to highlight certain information. The size and style of the permissible fonts is usually determined by court rule. (See, Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 32(a)(5)(A) which talks about fonts for documents to be filed with the federal appellate courts, although some circuits do allow slight variations by local rule). Then, the “BluePages” say that the following information should always be italicized or underlined:

Case Names, including any procedural phrases such as In re and ex rel.

Titles of Books and Articles

Titles of some Legislative materials (Hearings)

Introductory Signals (e.g., see, see also)

Explanatory phrases introducing subsequent case history (e.g., overruled by)

Words and phrases introducing related authority (e.g., quoted in)


Italicizing the proper things, as well as not italicizing the things that should not be, shows an attention to detail that will influence how readers will view the reliability of the information in the document.

Page References

When citing page numbers from a published reference (e.g., the citation to a court decision, a treatise, or a law review), as opposed to a court filing or transcript, do not use either “p.” “pp.” or “at.”  (e.g., Anna Lvovsky, The Judicial Presumption of Police Expertise, 130 Harv. L. Rev. 1995 (2017) not Anna Lvovsky, The Judicial Presumption of Police Expertise, 130 Harv. L. Rev. [at or p.] 1995 (2017))

However, when citing from a filed document or part of record in the case you are working on as opposed to a publication, “at” can be used. (e.g., R. at 107). Note:  Bluebook also gives the writer an option to place references to these types of documents in parentheses. I would recommend doing so, it really does help the reader.

If you are citing material that spans more than one page and appears on consecutive pages, use a hyphen (301-10). You always retain the last two digits but can omit repeated digits.  If citing non-consecutive pages, separate them with a comma (301, 305) and do not omit repeated digits.

When citing a footnote, provide the page number on which the footnote appears in text and the footnote number using n.  There should be a space between the page number and the n. but no space between n. and the number. (999 U.S. 421 n.2)  When citing multiple footnotes use nn. If they are consecutive, use a hyphen. (999 U.S. 421 nn.2-3)   If they are non-consecutive and on the same page, separate use an ampersand (&). (999 U.S. 421 nn.2 & 5).  If they are on different pages, each will need its own citation. (999 U.S. at 421 n.2; Id. at 422 n.5)

Sections and Subdivisions

If a reference is organized by section (§) or paragraph (¶), cite to these subdivisions instead of the page number.  Only provide a page number if it will help the reader locate material within the section or paragraph. Caution: if the item you are referencing is loose-leaf in nature, the page numbers will not be constant, so if you provide both a section and a page number, you may be actually doing a disservice to your reader.

Do not use the word “at” before either a section (§) or paragraph (¶) symbol. (Id., ¶ 5 not Id., at ¶ 5)

When citing multiple sections use or paragraphs use multiple symbols (§§) or (¶¶). (42 U.S.C. §§ 425-427) However, use only a single symbol when citing multiple subsections within a single section or paragraph. (§ 425(b)(1), (c))

Do not use et seq. to indicate a range of sections or paragraphs. Use inclusive numbers. If there are identical numbers preceding a punctuation mark, they may be omitted unless to do so would cause confusion. If citing a range of sections and a hyphen would be confusing use the word “to.”  (Wyo. Stat. Ann. §§ 1-22-101 to -117)


All quotations, except block quotations, should be placed within quotation marks. The text is not otherwise set off from the rest of the text. If there is quoted material within the material being quoted, use single marks rather than double. (e.g., When interpreting a rule, the court considers “the language of the Rule ‘as a whole, giving effect to every word, clause, and sentence.'”).

Place periods and commas inside the quotation marks.  All other punctuation should be placed outside the marks – unless the punctuation is part of the quoted text.

If adding a footnote, the footnote should immediately follow the closing quotation marks.

Quotations of fifty (50) or more words should be placed in a block format – single spaced, indented on both sides, and justified. The text will also appear without quotation marks. (However, quotation marks within the material be cited should remain as they appear in the original text.) The first word of the block quote is only indented if it is the first word of a paragraph from the text (it is indented in the original text). If the quoted material is not the first sentence of a paragraph or if language has been omitted, do not indent and do not use an ellipsis to indicate the omission. The citation to the material being referenced in the block quote should not be indented but should begin at the left margin on the line following the end of the quote.

The principle of collateral estoppel bars relitigation of previously litigated issues, and is based on the common-law principle that “a right, question or fact put in issue, and directly determined by a court of competent jurisdiction, cannot be disputed in a subsequent suit by the same parties or their privies.”

Hood v. State ex rel., Dep’t of Workforce Servs., Workers’ Comp. Div., 2016 WY 104, ¶ 21, 382 P.3d 772, 777 (quoting Tenorio v. State ex rel. Wyo. Workers’ Comp. Div., 931 P.2d 234, 238 (Wyo. 1997)).

When the case of a letter must be changed in a quotation, make the change but enclose the replaced letter in brackets. These types of changes typically occur when you are starting a sentence in your document with quoted language coming from the middle of a sentence from the referenced document or putting what had been the start of a sentence in the quoted source into the middle of your sentence. (e.g., “[T]he ordinary and obvious meaning of ‘incidental’ as used in the statute is a casual minor occurrence that is insignificant and of little consequence.”).

If you are merely omitting a letter to change the form of a word, use a set of empty brackets. This typically occurs when you need to change the verb tense. (e.g., Original form: makes ; Replaced form: make[]).

When you need to add or substitute words in a quotation, enclose the adjusted text in brackets. (Original words: “We have held” ; Replaced:  “[This Court has held]”).

If there is emphasis added to a quotation, make a parenthetical note to indicate its source (emphasis added). There is no need to make a parenthetical if the emphasis is in the original.

The omission of a word or words within the text of a quotation is indicated by an ellipsis, three periods separated by spaces with spaces before and after the last period.

“To demonstrate prejudice in most cases, the defendant must show “a reasonable probability that … the result of the proceeding would have been different” but for attorney error.”

However, an ellipsis should not be used to begin a quotation or when individual words are merely altered. Also, an ellipsis is not used to show omission of language that appears before or after the language quoted. When the beginning of the sentence is being omitted and the remaining language will start a sentence, capitalize the first letter of the language being quoted and place the altered letter in brackets.

If a citation or a footnote is omitted, include a parenthetical stating that fact. (citation omitted) (footnotes omitted)


The word court is capitalized only when referring to the United States Supreme Court, when you are using court’s full title (the United States Appellate Court for the Tenth Circuit), or when referring to the court handling the matter at hand (this Court).

Party designations (Plaintiff, Defendant, Appellant, Appellee, Complainant, and Respondent) are only capitalized when referring to the parties in the matter at hand. Caution: some courts indicate that they do not want to see generic references to the parties in the current case, they would like the parties to be referred to by name.

Capitalize the title of a court document only when it is a document that has been filed in the current matter and the reference is to the full actual document title.  Do not capitalize a reference to the generic name of a court document.

In headings and titles, capitalize all the words, even those following a colon, except articles, conjunctions, or prepositions.  The exception being that if an article, conjunction, or preposition is the first word or first word following a colon, it should be capitalized.

All nouns that identify specific persons, officials, groups, government offices or government bodies should be capitalized. [e.g., Legislature, Governor, Congress]. However, words ending in “ial”, “ive,” or “ional” tied to a noun should not be capitalized – it is a generic reference [e.g., gubernatorial, legislative, congressional].

Other words that should be capitalized:

Act: when it is referring to a specific piece of legislation

Circuit: When used with a court’s name and number

Code: When referring to a specific statutory compilation

Commonwealth: when referring to a state that uses this designation rather than State

Constitution: When referring to a specific constitution [the Constitution provides]. Also, capitalize nouns that identify specific parts of the United States Constitution [the Commerce Clause] when referring to them in text.

Federal: capitalize when the word it is modifying is capitalized [Federal Constitution]

Judge, Justice: when referring to a Judge or Justice by name or when referring to the Justices of the United States Supreme Court.

State: when it is part of the full title of a state [State of Minnesota] or when referring to a state as a governmental actor or as a party to the litigation.

Term: when referring to a Term of the United States Supreme Court. [Last Term, the Court…]


The Bluebook has numerous Tables that provide lists of specific abbreviations. Follow these precisely.  Be aware that some of the abbreviations the Bluebook editors have chosen are not the commonly used abbreviations. (e.g., Common: Dept. ; Bluebook: Dep’t). In addition to the abbreviations provided, any word over eight (8) letters in length that does not appear in any of the Tables may be abbreviated, so long as the abbreviation is unambiguous and does not duplicate an existing abbreviation. If the word does appear in a Table and is not abbreviated, do not abbreviate. Also, unless otherwise indicated, to form a plural the letter s is added.

Spacing in abbreviations is one of the real ways to spot a Bluebook pro. If using single adjacent capital letters, do not place a space between them (U.S.), but if any portion of the reference is longer than a single letter, a space must be used. (S. Ct.). Ordinal numerals are treated as a single letter (2d, 3d, 4th) – so it would be F.3d, P.2d, A.L.R.4th. However, if the publication abbreviation is more than a single letter, the space is still needed (So. 2d, F. Supp. 2d, Cal. Rptr. 2d)

In case names, abbreviate states, countries, and other geographical units as provided by Table T10 unless the geographical unit is the named party in a federal case. Omit “State of,” “Commonwealth of,” and “People of” when referencing states in a federal action.  Never abbreviate United States when it is the party.

Jones v. United States

Jones v. Massachusetts [Federal Court]

Jones v. Mass. Mutual Ins. Co. [the State is not the party, so an abbreviation may be used]

When referencing states in state actions, use “State,” “Commonwealth,” or “People” and omit the state name.

Jones v. Commonwealth

State v. Smith

Parallel Citations

Parallel citations occur when a case is published in two or more sources. Although federal cases may appear in multiple publications, parallel citations are not required.  So, lower federal court cases only require the Federal Reporter or Federal Supplement citation. If you are citing a United States Supreme Court decision, only the United States Reports (U.S.) citation is needed.  However, this citation can be several years in coming.  If that is the case, cite to either West’s Supreme Court Reporter (S. Ct) or Lexis’ United States Supreme Court Reporter, Lawyers’ Edition (L. Ed.). (Remember to watch the spacing!)

In state courts, each case citation must include a reference to the West National Reporter. Parallel citations are required for in-state cases which are published in two or more sources. However, even if an out-of-state case has a parallel reference, such reference need not be given. [For example, Kansas has an official reporter, so in Kansas, the proper citation would include a reference to Kan. as well as to the Pacific Reporter (e.g., 301 Kan. 797, 347 P.3d 201), but if the same case were being cited in Nebraska, only the National Reporter citation would be needed (e.g., 347 P.3d 201). If a pinpoint citation is needed, page numbers for both the official reference and the West National Reporter must be provided. (e.g., 301 Kan. 797, 799, 347 P.3d 201, 203).

The official citation may be in one of the Public Domain formats.  The most common format is the Year of the Decision followed by the Postal Abbreviation of the Jurisdiction followed by a sequential number assigned by the court. (2017 CO 23).  Cases using the public domain citation include paragraph numbers, so when a pinpoint citation is offered it is to the paragraph number.  The same basic rules about when to include a parallel citation and providing pinpoint references to each citation provided apply. (2017 CO 23, ¶ 14, 393 P.3d 487, 492). (Remember there is no “at” before the paragraph symbol).

Yet to be Published or Unpublished Cases

If the case being cited is a yet to be or unpublished case, the citation includes the docket number and the database reference. The jurisdiction and date parenthetical includes the court identifier and, unlike a published case, the exact date of the decision, not just the year, is provided. (Jones v. Smith, No. 17-001, 2017 Westlaw 777777 (2nd Cir. Jan. 2, 2017). If the identifier does not clearly show which database was used, a second parenthetical should be provided with that information – this is the situation if the researcher was using a system such as Fastcase or Casemaker.

In databases, an unpublished case has usually been given star references to page breaks. So a pinpoint is indicated by adding a comma after the database reference followed by the word “at” and the *page reference(s). This is one of the few situations where “at” is used.

Jones v. Smith, No. 17-0123, 2017 Westlaw 1234567, at *3 (3rd Cir. Feb. 14, 2017)

Jones v. Smith, No. 17-0123, 2017 Westlaw 1234567, at *3-5 (3rd Cir. Feb. 14, 2017)

Jones v. Smith, No. 17-0123, 2017 Westlaw 1234567, at *3, *5 (3rd Cir. Feb. 14, 2017)

Short Form for Case Citations

Once a case has been cited in full, later references maybe done in a “short form.”

Short cites are used to provide direction to additional discussion from a case that has already been cited. The most accepted form is to provide the name of one of the parties, the volume, and the page number.  (e.g., Jones, 123 S.W.3d at 1022).

Only the name of one party need be provided.  Generally, it will be the first party (or a readily identifiable shorter version of the first party’s name) unless the first part is a geographical unit, governmental entity, or another party that is a frequent litigant. (e.g., Union Pac. R.R. Co. could be cited as Union Pac.) (e.g., the short form for State v. Brown would be Brown)

If the original citation has parallel references, the short form will need to have parallel references as well. (e.g., 301 Kan. at 799, 347 P.3d at 203) A parallel reference could be to either an official reporter or to a universal citation. Remember that the word “at” does not precede a symbol, so it is not used in the short form of a public domain citation. (Jones, ¶¶ 23-24, 445 P.3d at 987)


If citing a reference that repeats the source that was cited as the immediately preceding authority, Id. may be used.  Id. may be used for repeating references from most types of publications or documents – statutes, cases, treatises, record cites, etc. The exception is that Id. may not be used if more than one source has been referenced in the preceding citation (two or more items cited to support the proposition). In determining whether multiple items have been cited, do not count any references made in parenthetical statements (citing, quoting, etc.) or references to prior/subsequent history.

Id. is capitalized only if it begins a citation sentence. And, it is always italicized.

If referencing the exact same paragraphs and pages from the prior citation, Id. may stand alone.  However, if referencing the same authority, but a different pinpoint (different paragraph and/or page numbers), use Id. and add the new pinpoint references. (Id. § 426) If parallel citations are being used, both references must still be accounted for. For parallel references, the pinpoint reference standing alone for the first of the parallel publications is sufficient, but the second reference still needs to include the reporter information. (Id., ¶¶ 23-24, 445 P.3d at 987) (Remember the “at” rule with respect to symbols!).

Citing Treatise Materials from an Electronic Database

When citing treatises from an electronic database, provide: (1) the volume number (if a multi-volume work); (2) the full name of the author(s) as presented on the title page – this includes using any Jr. or numerical (III) designations (however, do not use professional titles such as Prof. or Dr.); (3) the title of the work (no abbreviations and all words italicized); (4) a pinpoint cite to a section or page number; and (5) a parenthetical indicating the edition (if there have been multiple editions).  However, instead of a date of publication, you will indicate the database used and the date the online text was updated.

5A Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1376, Westlaw (database updated Apr. 2017)

Case Names

Only list the first named party. If the case is a consolidation of two or more actions, cite only the first party of the first action listed. Do not use any phrases that indicate multiple parties (et al.) or alternative names (a.k.a., d/b/a).

If the party is an individual, only use the last name.  However, there are actions (usually a case involving a minor) where a surname may be abbreviated, in this instance use the full first name. (John M. v. State)

Do not omit any part of a surname made up of more than one word (Van Pelt).

If the party is not an individual, the entire name of the entity should be provided – even if it may sound like a given name (Levi Strauss, Inc.).

Some cases contain procedural phrases.

Abbreviate “In the matter of,” “Petition of,” and similar phrases to “In re.”  If the case caption indicates both an adversarial name (Jones v. Smith) as well as a non-adversarial name (In the matter of the William Jones), both names should be provided (Jones v. Smith (In re William Jones)).

Abbreviate “on the relation of,” “on the behalf of” and related phrases “ex rel.”  When using an ex rel., the party name will look like it contains more than one party since multiple names will appear – Smith ex rel. Jones – but it doesn’t – read using the procedural phrase it would be Smith on the behalf of Jones. Note also that there are no commas surrounding ex rel.

Words in a party’s name may be abbreviated words in a citation using Table T6. Words longer than eight (8) letters not appearing in the Table may be abbreviated if the abbreviation is unambiguous and does not duplicate an existing abbreviation. However, do not abbreviate any of the words in a party’s name if it appears in the text.  Exception, there are eight words that may be abbreviated both in a citation sentence and in text.  Those eight words are:  “&,” “Ass’n,” “Bros.,” “Co.,” “Corp.,” “Inc.,” “Ltd.,” and “No.”


These Rules are by no means all that appear in the Bluebook. However, they are those that seem to be regularly overlooked, and, if you are diligent in following them, you will gain a reputation as a Bluebook Pro. A good way to become more familiar with the whole Bluebook is to look closely at the Table of Contents. If you do that, you can zero in on where to look any time something does not look quite right – or, since you are now the Pro, provide an answer when someone asks “Is this citation correct?”

Kathleen B. Carlson is the legal review administrator in the Office of the Wyoming Attorney General. Her responsibilities include reviewing and editing the work product of the attorneys in the office – which involves a thorough review of Bluebook citation format. She has also conducted several in-house trainings on Bluebook for both the attorneys and the paralegals. Prior to joining the Attorney General’s office, she served as the director of the Wyoming State Law Library for 24 years. Ms. Carlson also taught beginning legal research and writing for six years in the local community college’s ABA accredited paralegal program. She earned her B.A. degree from The Ohio State University, her J.D. degree from Capital University Law School, and her M.A. degree from The University of Iowa. Ms. Carlson is active in both the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) and its Western Pacific Chapter (WestPac) and has served in leadership positions for both. Additionally, she is currently serving on the Steering Committee of the National Association of Attorneys General Law Library Initiative (AGLI)

Leave a Reply