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Commonly asked questions (as fielded by reference librarians).



Which year should I cite for a statute or code?

See Rule 12.3.2.

Anytime you are faced with this question remember to always cite to the date of the edition you are using. Thus, look to the year on the spine of the volume, the title page, and lastly the copyright year (in that order). If the provision is in the supplement or pocket part, cite the edition of the supplement or pocket part, and not the main volume. If you are refering to both the main volume and pocket part or supplement, then cite to both (this might occur if an addition is merely adding or changing something in the main volume).

If you find the statute online, technically you have to check the bound volumes for the year (though in reality they are often the same).

For example,

          Mass. Gen Laws. ch. 93, § 1 (2006)

          Mass. Gen Laws. ch. 93, § 1 (Supp. 2007)

          Mass. Gen Laws. ch. 93, § 1 (2006 & Supp. 2007).

Also see Statute Section.


How do I cite a pocket part or supplement?

For statutes, see above.


What does it mean when the Bluebook says "works found within consecutively paginated articles" - and when does it apply?

The short answer - in general, you do not have to worry. When an issue or volume is numbered from its first page to the last in sequential order, then it is consecutively paginated. An issue or volume may contain muliptle articles, editorials, etc., within that same issue or volume. Thus, when citing to that particular article in a consecutively paginated article, the page cite will be from that issue or volume's page range. Thus, you will not have to additionally cite to a sub-issue or quarterly edition. Follow Rule 16.3

For example,

      A volume has two issues with the first containing pages 1 to 180 and the second issue containing pages 181 to 370. This is a consecutively paginated volume.  When citing an article in the volume, give the page number but not the issue number.

If each issue in a volume begins at page 1, then the volume is non-consecutively paginated. Thus, in your citation you will need to indicate the issue as it appears on the cover. See Rule 16.5 for details.

See also Newspapers.


What if the Bluebook does not have an abbreviation for a periodical?

Structure the abbreviation by checking Table 13's other abbreviations. In other words, look at the words in the periodical abbreviations, pick out the ones in your periodical and apply. If there is no abbreviation for a word then use the full word.

Omit words like "a," "at," "in," "of" and "the."


What do I end a citation with?

Unless the citation is a citation clause, every citation, whether in a footnote or in a brief, must end with a period. As a sentence by itself, it must also be separated by the next sentence by two spaces.

Also see What's the difference between a citation sentence, citation clause and textual reference?

For periods when citing to other court documents in a brief, see the Court Document section.


What's the difference between a citation sentence, citation clause and textual reference?

Citation sentence: A citation sentence is used when the citation refers to the entire preceeding textual sentence. Begin with a capital and end with a period.

Citation clause: Use a citation clause when differing parts of one sentence require a citation. Set off with commas, unless it ends a sentence, then end with a period. For party name abbreviation rules, it is the same as a citation sentence.

Textual reference: When refering to a case by name alone, underline and cite fully with a citation sentence or citation clause.

For example,

       In the Colyer case Judge Anderson determined that mere membership in the communist party was not a threat to the country. Colyer v. Skeffington, 265 F. 17 (1920). Judge Anderson was later overruled on the communist issue, Skeffington v. Katzeff, 277 F. 129 (1922), but his decision and reasoning was often later cited. Galvan v. Press, 347 U.S. 522 (1954); Bovinas v. Savoretti, 146 F. Supp. 274 (1956).

In the above example, the first Colyer is a textual reference. The Skeffington is a citation clause. The last is a citation sentence.


What is a regional reporter?

A reporter is a bound publication containing case opinions. Many contain publishers' annotations (e.g. Westlaw topic and key numbers). A regional reporter is one that covers opinions from certain jurisdictions, e.g. the Northeastern Reporter covers states like Massachusetts and New York. Topical and state reporters are also common (e.g. tax reporters or family law reporters).


When would you ever cite to an annotated statute?

If the statutory section has not yet been incorporated into the official statutory compilation or its supplement, then you may cite to an unofficial annotated statutory compilation. Check Table 1 for official codes for each jurisdiction.

For example,

          The U.S.C. is published every six years, along with supplements. Sometimes a new statutory provision may have not yet be incorporated in the main volume or supplement of the U.S.C. Thus, you may then cite to the U.S.C.A. or U.S.C.S.


How do I create "small caps?"

In Microsoft Word, go to font, and then click “small caps” option, or use the short form Control, Shift K. The "font" option is located in differing places depending on the version of Word used.


What is a pinpoint cite, and when do I have to do one?

A pinpoint cite is required when the proposition you are supporting comes from a particular sentence(s)/page(s) of an opinion. Merely referring to the case is not enough unless you are talking about the case in general terms. Also see Signals.


What is the "present participle?"

A present participle is usually used in conjunction with the verb 'to be,' and should indiciate an action that is in process and incomplete.

For example,

         The professor was lecturing.

         The author was reading his new bluebook guide.

Explantory parentheticals in the bluebook usually begin with present participles. Examples include, but are not limited too, "questioning," "stating," "examining," etc.

For example,

          Smith v. Jones, 345 Mass. 222 (1990) (questioning the relevancy of DNA evidence).

          Smith v. Jones, 345 Mass. 222 (1990) (denying motion to dismiss).

          Smith v. Jones, 345 Mass. 222 (1990) (elaborating on historical precedents).


What typeface conventions should I use?

Unfortunately, the Bluebook insists on two typeface conventions depending on what the text is being used for. For Law Reviews consult Rule 2, and for Court Documents/Legal Memoranda consult Bluepage [B] Rule 1. Be sure to check with local rules for Court Documents in case they differ.

The main differences are as follows.

Element  Law Review  Court Doc. 
Case Names Normal  Underline 
Case Name Short Form  Italicize  Underline 
Statutory Compilations  Small Caps  Normal 
Titles of Books/Articles  Italicize  Underline 
Titles of Legislative Materials  Normal  Underline 
Explanatory phrases introducing subsequent case history  Italicize  Underline 
Introductory Signals, e.g. See Italicize  Underline 
Cross references  Italicize  Underline 
Id.  Italicize Underline 
Law Review or Journal title abbreviations  Small Caps  Normal 

If you can suggest any other FAQs, please feel free to e-mail


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