Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Blue Book is Out of Control

In law, we use something called the Bluebook for proper citation format.  I was in one of the newer associate's offices yesterday, and noticed that his Bluebook was a lot thicker than mine.

Mine is the one I bought when I started law school back in 2001.  The Seventeenth Edition, which was already a whopping 391 pages.  The current version, which this associate has, is the Nineteenth Edition, which is over 500 pages.  Yes, in ten years enough has changed that they have added 100 more pages to this book.  And yet...somehow over the past ten years, I've survived.  Everything I needed to cite was in the Seventeenth Edition.  No Judge or anyone else has ever scolded me for providing a faulty citation.  In short, there is obviously a lot of nonsense in the Bluebook.  And yet it keeps getting bigger and bigger.

I absolutely hate the Bluebook.  It's incredibly confusing sometimes due to its level of detail, and many of the citation formats don't make any logical sense.  Imagine my joy to come across this article written by Judge Posner (who I kind of adore) discussing his hatred of the Bluebook:
The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation exemplifies hypertrophy in the anthropological sense. It is a monstrous growth, remote from the functional need for legal citation forms, that serves obscure needs of the legal culture and its student subculture.

I don’t use The Bluebook or any other form book in either my judicial opinions or my academic writings. Journals, and not only law journals, do sometimes impose citation forms on me. But the Federal Reporter does not; nor do the publishers of most of my books. My judicial and academic writings receive their share of criticism, but no one to my knowledge has criticized them for citation form.  The reason is that readers are not interested in citation form. Unless the form is outlandish, it is invisible.     
He's very right.  As long as you can look at the citation and know what it is referring to, that is all you really need.  It doesn't matter if the title should go before the author or the court name is abbreviated.  Outside of law school legal writing classes, no one pays any attention to citation format in "the real world."  

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