I’ve just ordered my copy of the new (and 96 pages longer) Bluebook citation guide.

I ordered from Amazon; if you like paying for shipping, you can go directly to the source.

The first mention I saw of the new edition was in a blog post titled “The Bluebook (19th ed.): Something I don’t need to practice law” by Raymond Ward at the (new) legal writer.

His point was that most practicing lawyers only need to know a very small slice of what’s in the Bluebook — “Everything I need to know to cite those sources should fit on the front and back of one page.”

He’s right if your practice only involves one jurisdiction’s law. For me, it’s worthwhile to have a guide to those states and more obscure sources I don’t see everyday.

Citing Internet Sources

Something tells me, however, that I’ll continue to be disappointed at the citation forms chosen for internet sources. This blog post gives an example of one form (for podcasts) that leaves me baffled. The example they quote from new Rule 18.7.3:

Splitting Verbs, Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing (Feb. 26, 2009) (downloaded using iTunes).

That’s awful — like saying “I bought it at Barnes & Noble”. That someone once downloaded a podcast episode from iTunes doesn’t mean that it’s still available there. Some podcasts only keep a few most recent episodes listed on iTunes. (( For example, the This American Life podcast entry lists only its single most recent episode. As I check today, the Grammar Girl listing goes back to its episode number 122, so the 121 previous episodes are no longer on the iTunes shelves. ))

The better source for this podcast episode? It’s available on the publisher’s website. There is a URL for a transcript of this “Splitting Verbs” episode, complete with an embedded audio version, a YouTube clip of John Roberts and Obama un-splitting a verb in the oath of office, and footnotes: http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/splitting-verbs.aspx. Few podcasts go to quite this much trouble, but most publish a webpage or blog post attaching the audio file itself. (( At its most technological root, that’s what a podcast is — an RSS newsfeed with an audio file attached. ))

URLs are ugly in print, but they are “uniform resource locators.” They are built to do this job with precision. And an ugly citation that works is far superior to a pretty one that doesn’t. (( In fairness, there might be a divergence in how law reviews should cite the internet compared to practitioners. For practitioners, the half-life of a brief is very short; it is important that the court be able to follow along while deciding your case — and much more important that the cite be direct and work smoothly — but posterity is not your problem. For law reviews, on the other hand, the printed volumes that sit on a library shelf are the point. Editors might assume that whatever citation system they choose today will be deprecated before anyone ever bothers to try to check their work. ))

This is why I will open to the internet-related section of the new Bluebook with some apprehension, when it arrives.

But I always do look forward to seeing which new case-name abbreviations have been elevated for inclusion in table T.6….