ALWD Citation Rules

Using ALWD/BB Rules to Avoid Faulty Attribution

The ALWD Citation Manual and The Bluebook provide a careful legal writer with citation tools to avoid plagiarism. As noted in the introduction to The ALWD Manual, attorneys use legal citations in written documents for a number of reasons, including to “demonstrate that their positions are well researched and well supported,” and to “give credit to those who originated an idea.” Association of Legal Writing Directors & Darby Dickerson, ALWD Citation Manual 4 (2d ed. Aspen L. & Bus. 2003) [hereinafter ALWD Manual]. Thus, following the citation rules in either the ALWD Manual or The Bluebook, particularly the rules on when and where to place citations, how and when to use signals, and how to properly quote authority, will help you appropriately attribute words and ideas in any document you write during your legal career.

I. When and Where to Provide Attribution

Both the ALWD Manual and The Bluebook give specific instruction on when to cite a source and where to place that citation. The ALWD Manual provides that a citation should be placed immediately after any sentence or clause “that contains a statement of a legal principle, a reference to or description of a legal authority, or an idea, a thought, or an expression borrowed from another source.” ALWD Manual at Rule 43.2(a); see ALWD Manual at Rule 43.1 for further information on citation placement. Similarly, The Bluebook indicates that citations are needed to “show support for a legal or factual proposition or argument,” The Bluebook Rule I.3 (Columbia Law Review Assn. Et al. eds. 17th ed. Harv. L. Rev. Assn. 2000) [hereinafter The Bluebook], and, in practitioner documents, should be placed after sentences or clauses that the citation supports. Id. at Rule P.2.


To prove tortious interference, the plaintiff must show that the defendant intentionally interfered with the plaintiff’s economic relations with improper purpose or means. Leigh Furniture & Carpet, Co. v. Isom, 657 P.2d 293, 304 (Utah 1982).

II. Using “No Signal” to Show Direct Use of Words and Ideas and “See” to Show Indirect Support for Your Own Words and Ideas

The conventions of legal citation provide the writer with a unique system of shorthand—the signal—for conveying to the reader not only the source of a word, thought, or idea, but also the kind of support the source provides for the word thought or idea. ALWD Manual at Rule 44.1; The Bluebook at Rule 1. Although the ALWD Manual and The Bluebook provide extensive lists of signals that a writer can use, the most important signals to avoiding plagiarism are “no signal” and the signal “see.” By properly using no signal at all with a legal citation or by using the signal “see,” you can convey to the reader when a proposition is drawn directly from a source or when a source indirectly supports your own analysis.

No Signal: Do not use a signal with a citation if the source directly supports a proposition, identifies the source of a quotation, or identifies an authority referred to in the text. ALWD Manual at Rule 44.2; The Bluebook at Rule 1.2. In other words, do not use a signal with a citation when you have directly borrowed someone else’s words or have paraphrased her words or ideas.


An “improper purpose” exists only if Smith's desire to harm Jones dominated Smith’s “legitimate economic motivations.” St. Benedict’s Dev. Co. v. St. Benedict’s Hosp., 811 P.2d 194, 201 (Utah 1991).

See: If the authority indirectly or implicitly supports the proposition or if the proposition is supported by dicta in a legal opinion, use the signal “see” with the citation. ALWD Manual at Rule 44.3; The Bluebook at 1.2. Thus, to help avoid plagiarism, use the signal “see” any time your own analysis or conclusions are built upon someone else’s words or ideas.

In this example, the writer tells us that although the Leigh Furniture case does not directly address false statements about financial status, its holding is sufficient to extend the rule to that kind of situation:

“Improper means” include making inaccurate statements about a competitor’s financial viability. See Leigh Furniture, 657 P.2d at 308 (stating that “disparaging falsehoods” are “improper means”).

III. Properly Quoting Sources to Avoid Plagiarism

Whenever you quote or copy words directly from a source, you must place quotation marks around the quoted material and give a citation. Both The ALWD Manual and The Bluebook provide detailed guidance to legal writers on how to properly quote to a source, how to properly alter quotations, and how to properly omit material from quotations. ALWD Manual at Rules 47-49; The Bluebook at Rule 5.


A tort action accrues when “a plaintiff could have first filed . . . an action to successful completion.” DOLT, Inc. v. Touche, Ross & Co., 926 P.2d 835, 843 (Utah 1996).