Category Archives: Citation

Reducing legal-writing clutter with (cleaned up)

Have you heard of (cleaned up)—the daring new explanatory parenthetical?

Suppose you’re writing a piece of legal analysis and you need to quote a case that’s quoting another case. And suppose you choose to omit some words and alter the original a bit. Under Bluebook rules, you’d cite the case you’re quoting as well as the underlying source, and you’d show every alteration and omission. Those are the rules. So you might end up with something like this:

The Court has previously observed that “[t]he failure to affirmatively establish the fact sought does not ‘prevent the cross-examination from having . . . probative value in regard to the witness’s credibility.’” Henry v. State, 343 S.W.3d 282, 288 (Tex. Crim. App. 2018) (quoting Cawdery v. State, 583 S.W.2d 705, 710 (Tex. Crim. App. 1979)).

But what if you could delete the brackets, the ellipses, and the quotation within a quotation? What if you could omit the underlying source and the parenthetical it’s embedded in? Would that be okay, as long as you told the reader you “cleaned up” what would otherwise be a messy quotation? If you did, it might look like this:

The Court has previously observed that “the failure to affirmatively establish the fact sought does not prevent the cross-examination from having probative value in regard to the witness’s credibility.” Henry v. State, 343 S.W.3d 282, 288 (Tex. Crim. App. 2018) (cleaned up).

That cleaner, neater version was the goal of attorney Jack Metzler when he invented the “cleaned up” explanatory parenthetical in 2017. Metzler has also written a law-review article about (cleaned up). The idea was to make quotations easier to read and to reduce words and bibliographic clutter. So this original—

Above all, “[c]ourts presume that the Legislature ‘ “understands and correctly appreciates the needs of its own people, that its laws are directed to problems made manifest by experience, and that its discriminations are based upon adequate grounds.” ’ ” Enron Corp. v. Spring Indep. Sch. Dist., 922 S.W.2d 931, 934 (Tex. 1996) (quoting Smith v. Davis, 426 S.W.2d 827, 831 (Tex. 1968) (quoting Texas Nat’l Guard Armory Bd. v. McCraw, 126 S.W.2d 627, 634 (Tex. 1939))).

would look like this—

Above all, “courts presume that the Legislature understands and correctly appreciates the needs of its own people, that its laws are directed to problems manifest by experience, and that its discriminations are based on adequate grounds.” Enron Corp. v. Spring Indep. Sch. Dist., 922 S.W.2d 931, 934 (Tex. 1996) (cleaned up).

Metzler’s idea was a hit. Lawyers and judges have started using (cleaned up), and it has appeared in dozens of appellate briefs and judicial opinions in Texas, as well as in other state courts and federal courts. Metzler’s rules for (cleaned up) appeared in the Journal of Appellate Practice and Process, and they’re quoted in full at the bottom of this post. But here’s a quick summary: Using (cleaned up) means that in quoting, the author—

  • has removed extraneous, non-substantive material such as brackets, quotation marks, ellipses, footnote numbers, and internal citations,
  • has changed capitalization without indicating the changes, and
  • has made changes that enhance readability while otherwise faithfully reproducing the quoted text.

Bottom line: using (cleaned up) makes quoting and citing easier and aids reading, too.

But beware. When you use (cleaned up), your credibility is on the line. You’re saying, “I haven’t altered this quotation unethically, and I haven’t done anything dishonest or underhanded.” If you use (cleaned up) to change the quotation in ways that misrepresent the original text, your credibility is gone.

Of course, that’s true of anything you cite or quote: if you’ve exaggerated, fudged, or lied, someone—judge, staff attorney, clerk, opposing counsel—will find you out. So consider (cleaned up) and join me in hoping the next edition of the Bluebook takes note.

Get Wayne Schiess’s books:

Legal Writing Nerd: Be One
Plain Legal Writing: Do It


Proposed Bluebook Rule 5.4: Cleaning up Quotations:

(a) Cleaning up. When language quoted from a court decision contains material quoted from an earlier decision, the quotation may, for readability, be stripped of internal quotation marks, brackets, ellipses, internal citations, and footnote reference numbers; the original sources of quotations within the quotation need not be cited parenthetically; and capitalization may be changed without brackets. Indicate these changes parenthetically with (cleaned up). Other than the changes specified, the text of the quotation after it has been cleaned up should match the text used in the opinion cited. If the quotation is altered further, indicate the changes or omissions according to Rules 5.2 and 5.3.

(b) Cleaning up intermediary case citations. In addition to the alterations described in Rule 5.4(a), when a quoted passage quotes a second case quoting a third case, the citation to the middle case may be omitted to show that the first court quoted the third. To indicate this change, retain the quotation marks around the material quoted from the third case and any alterations that were made to the quotation, and insert (cleaned up) before the “quoting” parenthetical citation to the third case. Indicate any alterations that were made to language quoted from the third case according to Rules 5.2 and 5.3.

Jack Metzler, Cleaning Up Quotations, 18 J. App. Prac. & Process 143, 154-55 (2017).

The New Greenbook

Texas Rules of Form (14th ed. 2018). Key takeaways:

  • All courts of appeals are cited as Tex. App.
  • No publisher-date parenthetical for statutes currently in force

A new edition of Texas Rules of Form—The Greenbook—just came out in August. The 14th edition has some changes you’ll want to know about if you cite Texas authorities. I summarize the key changes below. But first, why change The Greenbook?

The Texas Law Review editors in charge of the 14th edition were determined to improve The Greenbook and to address concerns raised by practicing lawyers, law librarians, and legal educators. So they created an extensive online survey that asked about nearly every citation convention in the manual; the survey also solicited suggestions for improvement. They received hundreds of responses and ultimately made several changes intended to improve the manual. Here are the main changes.

Layout upgrade

The first thing you’ll notice is the look of the text, which I consider an improvement. The 14th edition uses a contrasting font for major headings and examples and places rule numbers in the left margin. These design elements make the text easier to read and easier to skim.

Tex. Civ. App. goes away

For all intermediate appellate court cases, the correct abbreviation for the court is now Tex. App. because the 14th edition has abandoned Tex. Civ. App. See Rule 4.2. In case you’d forgotten: before September 1, 1981, Texas’s intermediate appellate courts had no criminal jurisdiction and heard only civil cases. They were known as courts of civil appeals and were abbreviated Tex. Civ. App. After these courts gained criminal jurisdiction, they became the courts of appeals, and in a full-citation are abbreviated Tex. App. The 14th edition has done away with this distinction, so all courts of appeals are cited as Tex. App.

Old form: Key v. Plant, 500 S.W.2d 233 (Tex. Civ. App.—Austin 1973, writ dism’d)
New form: Key v. Plant, 500 S.W.2d 233 (Tex. App.—Austin 1973, writ dism’d)

Statutory publisher and year disappear

When citing a Texas statute in full form, The Bluebook and previous Greenbook editions require you to include a parenthetical containing the publisher (West) and the date (the copyright year of the print volume in which the statute appears). But the 14th edition does away with that requirement. See Rules 10.1 and 10.2. For statutes currently in force, the 14th edition drops the publisher-date parenthetical.

This change was probably motivated in part by feedback The Greenbook’s editors received on their survey. But I’ll bet it was equally motivated by their own headaches in hunting down the Vernon’s print volume to find the right date. This change is eminently wise and is one my legal-writing colleagues and I have been hoping would come to pass. Here’s what it looks like:

Old form: Tex. Tax Code Ann. § 26.06(a) (West 2014)
New form: Tex. Tax Code Ann. § 26.06(a)

Now, if we could just get The Bluebook editors to be similarly sensible.

Noting adopted opinions of the Commission of Appeals

Fully adopted opinions of the Texas Commission of Appeals were formerly cited as if they were originally Texas Supreme Court opinions, like this:

Old form: Cheney v. Coffey, 114 S.W.2d 533 (Tex. 1938)

But the 14th edition in Rule 5.2.2 now requires that the adoption be indicated in the court-date parenthetical, like this:

New form: Cheney v. Coffey, 114 S.W.2d 533 (Tex. [Comm’n Op.] 1938)

This is another sensible change. Ultimately, I like the new Greenbook, and I approve of the editors’ changes. Here’s hoping you’ll approve, too.

Citation form: The Tyranny of the Inconsequential

I wrote about this before, in 2006, but here I go again.

“Mastering the arcana of citation forms . . . is not a productive use of judges’ or law clerks’ time. The purpose of citations is to assist researchers in identifying and finding the sources; a form of citation that will serve that end is sufficient. In addition, the form of citation should be consistent to avoid the appearance of lack of craftsmanship and care.”

Judicial Writing Manual 24 (Fed. Jud. Ctr. 1991).

I agree with this quotation entirely. But it doesn’t reflect reality. Lawyers, especially judicial clerks, will judge you by your citation form, as inconsequential as it may be.

I call it the tyranny of the inconsequential.

Before I offer 3 exhibits to support my point, let me be clear: I’m talking only about citation form, not citation substance. For example, in a case citation, if the case name is wrong, if the page number is wrong, if the year is wrong—that’s a problem. Those are substantive mistakes. I’m talking about form.

For example:

  • Whether you leave a space between F. and Supp.
  • Whether you use “and” or “&”
  • Whether you spell out “Gender” or abbreviate it “Gend.”
  • Whether you carry out 3 digits (343-344) or 2 digits (343-44)

These matters of form are not substantively relevant, I say. They shouldn’t matter, but they do.


  • Because citation form is a wrong-or-right matter, without subjectivity, it’s an easy proxy for assessing the caliber of a piece of writing.
  • Because you create citation forms by consulting an authority (a citation manual) and applying rules, it’s sort of like legal analysis.
  • Because most lawyers consider themselves nitpickers and strong writers, the weight given to citation-form errors is exaggerated.

Exhibit A: A senior attorney threatens to withhold an offer from a summer associate because her citation form is poor. In reality she is simply using ALWD Manual citation form and the “mistakes” are just different abbreviations, like Assn. vs. Ass’n.

Exhibit B: A students reports that “being on law review improved my writing” but when asked to specify says, “because it helped me master citation form.”

Exhibit C: A judge says, “if the writer made a mistake in citation form, then the writer probably made other, substantive mistakes.”

Incorrect citation spacing that looks correct



I am proofreading a paper my boss is submitting for a CLE talk. The paper must be in a 2-column format with full justification. In citations, my boss puts 2 spaces where there should be 1 space, like this:

123  F.3d  456

In case you can’t tell, here’s a clearer version:


Is this okay?


I’ve never heard of that being done, but I am aware that full justification can cause the spacing in citations to look wrong. You didn’t say this, but what must be happening is that when your boss uses 1 space between the volume number and the reporter name and 1 space between the reporter name and the page number, the full justification will sometimes squeeze it together, and it will look like the author omitted the necessary space. Your boss puts in 2 spaces, so it will always look correctly spaced.

I say it’s fine.

Of course, whether you use 1 space, 2 spaces, or no spaces in a citation absolutely cannot affect the authority, the substance, or the analysis. But this confirms that lawyers will judge you on your citation form.

I’ve written about this topic in my book Better Legal Writing. I call this idea—that lawyers will judge your competence by something as unimportant as the spaces in your citations—the tyranny of the inconsequential.

I’ll post an excerpt on this blog.