For eighty-four years, The Bluebook has remained the leading legal citation authority among judges, lawyers, paralegals, scholars and other legal professionals. Published and distributed by the Harvard Law Review Association, the 19th edition of The Bluebook became available in June 2010. The full name, The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, is commonly abbreviated as The Bluebook based on its distinctive blue cover. Some legal writers incorrectly spell the name “Blue Book” as two words. The Bluebook has become so common in the legal field that the term “bluebooking” has come into vernacular when verifying legal citations for Bluebook citation format.
Five years have passed since the first printing of the 18th edition of in 2005. In those five years, The Bluebook has gone from 415 pages to 511 pages in the new and improved 19th edition. The editors came out with new editions in 1991, 1996, 2000, and 2005. Back in 2008, editors of The Bluebook asked for feedback in a survey from law librarians for the 19th edition and the 19th edition incorporates some of that feedback. The preface to the 19th edition states that the “current edition of The Bluebook retains the same basic approach to legal citation established by its predecessors . . . Some citation forms have been expanded, elaborated upon, or modified from prevision editions to reflect the ever-expanding range of authorities used in legal writing and to respond to suggestions from the legal community.” The preface to the 19th edition available here provides a summary of the key updates for the new edition.
The Bluepages first introduced in the 18th edition have been considerably overhauled for the new edition. The Bluepages are a how-to-guide created primarily for practitioners and law clerks to use when citing authority within non-academic legal documents. The Bluepages now include detailed information for citing Electronic Case Files (ECF) documents. BT2 includes jurisdiction-specific citation rules and style guides. This section in the Bluepages has been updated and expanded.
Rule 18 – Internet and Electronic Media Sources
A lot has changed in the online world since 2005 when the 18th edition of The Bluebook was first published. Rule 18 dealing with the Internet, Electronic Media, and Other Nonprint Resources has been significantly updated in the 19th edition to reflect those changes. Rule 18 has changed considerably, primarily to allow increased citation to Internet sources. For example, Rules 18.6 and 18.7 now allow for the use of timestamps in citations to audio and video recordings. Before, The Bluebook had no rule for citing podcasts. Rule 18.7.3 now provides citation guidance for podcasts and online recordings.
Here is a sample citation of a podcast found in Rule 18.7.3.
Splitting Verbs, Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing (Feb. 26, 2009) (downloaded using iTunes).
Other Miscellaneous Changes
There are a variety of other changes in the 19th edition of The Bluebook. Rule 10.8.3 now provides details for citations to audio recordings of court proceedings. Rule 13.4(d) now establishes specific citation formats for Congressional Research Services and Government Accountability Office reports. Rule 14 has been revised to improve citation to administrative agency materials. Rule 16.6 now includes provisions for citation to wire services.
Criticisms of The Bluebook
The Bluebook also has its critics. The first hit with a search on Google of “Bluebook nineteenth edition” is for a blog post on the Volokh Conspiracy entitled “Abolish the Bluebook.” One alternative to The Bluebook used in some law schools is the ALWD Citation Manual (3rd ed.) published by the Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD). The ALWD Citation Manual contains one system for all legal documents, making no distinction between law review articles and other types of writing. In addition, ALWD does not use small caps as a typeface. The Maroonbook, used by journals published at the University of Chicago Law School, offers another alternative legal citation format. For more criticism of the 19th edition of The Bluebook, check out the blog article here by Louisiana appellate lawyer Raymond Ward.
Admittedly, The Bluebook has archaic rules and providing different rules for law review articles and practitioners seems unnecessary. At $25 plus shipping, The Bluebook is relatively inexpensive compared to other law books that often exceed $100. An online subscription is also available at www.legalbluebook.com. But The Bluebook remains the most commonly used citation style in the legal field and legal practitioners should remain current and up to date with the most recent changes in the rules. The 19th edition of The Bluebook is a must-have for any judge, lawyer, or paralegal and the 19th edition continues the tradition established by the first edition of The Bluebook published in 1926.