In the last issue of the Journal, the Legal Writer discussed the Bluebook at length. In this third and final part of our three-part series on citing, the Legal Writer gives an update on some resources for citing in addition to the Bluebook and the Tanbook and provides a chart illustrating the differences in each source's rules.

The Indigo Book

Another citing resource for students and lawyers is the Indigo Book. In 2016, the renewal of the copyright of the Bluebook was contested. Professor Christopher Jon Sprigman at New York University School of Law assembled an open-source, online version of legal citation initially entitled Baby Blue. After some controversy, the resource was changed to The Indigo Book.1 When Professor Sprigman was asked what motivated this project, he responded that he

thought about all the people who had an interest in citations - practicing lawyers, academics, law students - who had no ability, if they're not on the Harvard Law Review, to actually say what the rules should be. I thought that's odd. . . . [we] can work with it [this system], to change it, to streamline it, to improve it. That was the reason why I decided to do this.2

Despite its dramatic face-off with the Bluebook, the Indigo Book doesn't correct the Bluebook's errors in New York citations. But it links to the Tanbook under "State and Jurisdiction-Specific Legal Citation Guides."3


The ALWD Guide to Legal Citation,4 previously the ALWD Citation Manual, is designed to be more simple than the Bluebook. First published in 2000, ALWD's purpose was consistency in legal and academic documents.5  But the fifth and sixth editions have diverged from that purpose, and the rules now match the Bluebook.6 Still, readers will notice ALWD's user-friendly format. The sixth edition has expanded its appendices, "sidebars" of explanation, and "Fast Formats" that list citing essentials.

ALWD does a better job than the Bluebook at pointing readers to local court rules. ALWD rule 12.4(b)(1), "Selecting reporter for citation in court document," provides that "[i]n court document such as motion and briefs, cite the reporter(s) required by the court's local rule, if any," and refers readers to Appendices 2(A) and 2(B). Rule 12.4(b)(5), "Selecting publication source for state case," also tells us not to "cite a state-specific unofficial reporter unless you are submitting a court document to a court that requires or prefers citation to West's state-specific reporters." Appendix 2 contains Local Court Citation Rules. For New York, it lists the New York court website ( and CPLR 5529 (e), which provides that New York citations should follow the New York Official Reports. It also lists the Tanbook as a resource.

Since these are outside resources, a New York practitioner cannot use only the ALWD Manual; they have to follow the resources listed. The manual still has the abbreviation wrong for the Appellate Division. In Appendix 4(B), it lists "N.Y. App. Div." instead of telling readers to list which appellate department decided the case.

Despite the ALWD Guide's easy-to-read format, it hasn't gained much popularity over the years. Although the early 2000s had the legal-writing field questioning whether the ALWD would ever rival the Bluebook, ALWD hasn't increased in popularity.7 Still, some hope that while ALWD has "conceded the battle over the rules themselves . . . [A] choice between [the] two books that present[s] the rules in different ways. . . . is a contest that the ALWD Guide can and should win." 8

Lexis Interactive Workbook

Another resource for New York practitioners is a LexisNexis publication. In 2015, Lexis published the Interactive Citation Workbook for the Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation and Interactive Citation Workbook for ALWD guide to legal citation, New York.9 The Workbook notes that the New York practitioner shouldn't always follow The Bluebook or ALWD.10

The Workbook   gets some things right. It tells New York practitioners to use the official reports, note the Appellate Division department, omit the section symbol and database for most statutes, and abbreviate some case names and administrative rules.11

But the Workbook also gets things wrong. The Workbook overlooks punctuation altogether. Its example of a correct citation is Hernandez v. Robles, 26 A.D.3d 98 (1st Dep't 2005), rev'd, 7 N.Y.3d 338 (2006). But the citation shouldn't have the excess periods and apostrophes. Written correctly according to the Tanbook, the citation is Hernandez v Robles, 26 AD3d 98 (1st Dept 2005), affd 7 NY3d 338 (2006).

There are also some slight differences between the Tanbook and the Workbook in terms of abbreviating and punctuating. The Appellate Term abbreviation is "App Term," not "App. T." The Workbook example is Carrano v. Castro, 12 Misc. 3d 5 (App. T. 2d Dep't 2d & 11th Dists. 2006). The correct Tanbook citation is Carrano v Castro, 12 Misc 3d 5 (App Term, 2d Dept, 2d & 11th Jud Dists 2006).

Note on Westlaw and Lexis

Westlaw and Lexis users should note that when copying and pasting quotations from cases or statutes online, they can change the "Copy with Reference" option from "Standard"12 to "New York." Making this change will provide the case, statute, or rule in Tanbook format, or something close. Users should always double-check automated citations. Too often the automated function gives the New York format incorrectly.

Also, headnotes are useful, but they should be used only as a guide, and not be relied on as authority. One California practitioner noticed that "[v]ery often a case published in West's California Reporter will have more headnotes than the same case published in the official reports. This is because the unofficial reports have a tendency to place language in an opinion that sounds like black-letter law into a headnote even though the proposition of law is fairly far removed from the ratio decidendi."13

Most attempts to correct New York citations, or at least acknowledge the differences, are promising. But still no resource except the Tanbook gives practitioners concrete formatting advice. When practicing in a New York State court, cite using the Tanbook and nothing else. Your judge will thank you. If you're lucky, your client will, too.

Citations Compared

  • Jon Sprigman et al., The Indigo Book: A Manual of Legal Citation, Public Resource (2016), (last visited July 17, 2018).
  • Interview by Daryl Steiger, Indigo Book: A Manual of Legal Citation, 5 NYU J. of Intell. Prop. & Ent. L. 513, 516 (2016).
  • Id. at Table 19.3.
  • Ass’n of Legal Writing Directors & Coleen M. Barger, ALWD Guide to Legal Citation (6th ed. 2017).
  • The First Edition notes in its preface that “a single and consistent set of rules for all forms of legal writing, avoiding the needless confusion and complexity inevitable when there are separate and inconsistent systems for law review footnotes and for practical writing such as memoranda and briefs.” Ass’n of Legal Writing Directors & Darby Dickerson, ALWD Citation Manual: A Professional System of Citation, Preface at xxiv (1st ed. 2000).
  • Indeed, the publisher’s website notes that “[n]o differences between components, abbreviations, and typeface of ALWD and the 20th edition of Bluebook confronting the misplaced perception that students who use ALWD don’t know how to ‘Bluebook.’” About the Book,, (last visited July 17, 2018).
  • LWD’s website lists 72 law schools, 47 paralegal schools, and four courts that have adopted ALWD Guide to Legal Citation, but the list itself hasn’t been updated since 2002. See (last visited July 17, 2018).
  • Stephen Paskey, Conveying Titles Clearly: Thoughts on the Fifth Edition of the ALWD GUIDE TO LEGAL CITATION, 15 J. App. Prac. & Process 273, 274 (2014), available at (last visited July 17, 2018).
  • Tracy Mcgaugh Norton et al., Interactive Citation Workbook for the Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation and Interactive Citation Workbook for ALWD Guide to Legal Citation, New York, LexisNexis Law School Publishing Advisory Board, at 1 (LexisNexis 2015).
  • The Workbook is available online in PDF form: documents/pdfstore/New_York_Bluebook_and_ALWD_Final.pdf.
  • Id. at Introduction. (Noting that New York courts “require the citation of New York decisions from the official reports . . .”).
  • “Standard” is the default on both Westlaw and Lexis. It’s the Bluebook format. However, the Bluebook charges royalties to use its name, which is why it doesn’t say “Bluebook.”
  • Robert G. Scofield, The Distinction Between Judicial Dicta and Obiter Dicta, 25 L.A. Law. 17, 20–21 (Oct. 2002).
  • See Bluebook at 106. The “affirmed” citation is added in order to show more differences in the citation formats.
  • New York Rules of Citation 28 (St. John’s L. Rev., 6th ed 2011).
  • See Bluebook at 124.
  • New York Rules of Citation, supra note 15, at 12.
  • Bluebook R12.3.1, at 124.
  • Id. R16.9, at 170.
  • Tanbook at 64.