Law school takes regular people and turns them into boring people. Well, actually, let's be honest: law school takes boring people and turns them into more boring people. One of the principal means by which this transmogrification is accomplished is The Bluebook.

The Bluebook is jointly created by the editors of the Harvard Law Review, the Yale Law Journal, the Columbia Law Review, and the University of Pennsylvania Law Review (Cornell is the only Ivy League law review not to get a piece of the lucrative citation action, because nobody likes Cornell). It provides style guidelines for citation of sources in law review articles and other legal documents. You would not thing that an explanation of how to cite sources would take too long. You probably got a brief explanation of citations in high school or college, with an explanation that fit on a sheet or two of paper. Naturally, so concise an approach to citation is inadequate in a legal environment. What are you going to do for all the odd and unusual documents that you will never actually encounter in your legal career? What is the proper citation format for a scribbling on a cocktail napkin by a Supreme Court justice? By a district court judge? By a law professor? What if it's a judge on a foreign court, like the Supremo Tribunal Federal (the highest court of appeals on constitutional matters in Brazil)? What if it's a beer mat?

The Bluebook answers all of the questions you could possibly have about citation with a mere 415 pages of rules, all in a compact spiral-bound volume. Here, for instance, is the first page on shortform citation:

More about Id. than you ever wanted to know! Including this useful tidbit:

Which is why I spent a large chunk of last night painfully checking to ensure that the periods after the id.s in a document with 350 footnotes were italicized. And that's before I got to the substantive part of the cite-check.

I offer, in conclusion, the following assertion: Knowing on sight the difference between an italicized and an unitalicized period makes you a boring person.

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on October 10, 2006 9:53 PM.

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