Friday, January 19, 2018

Bluebook Rule R5.3 and the use of Ellipses with Quotations

The proper use of ellipses when quoting authority may not be the most pressing concern for overwhelmed law students, but it is one of the biggest stumbling blocks for new legal writers.  The unnecessary overuse of ellipses at the end of quotations is by far the most common error I encountered when grading students’ first attempts at legal writing.

So, what to do if you are omitting the end of quoted material? Or the beginning? Or in the middle?

The first place to look for guidance is Bluebook Rule R5.3.  The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation R5.3, at 78 (Columbia Law Review Ass’n et al. eds., 20th ed. 2015) (affiliate link).  The Bluebook does a fairly good job, but doesn’t offer quite enough guidance, especially for students new to legal writing.

I will use a short quote from Dickens’s Bleak House (affiliate link) to illustrate the rule.  Note that I use a “# to represent spaces in my examples to indicate where spacing is required.

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