Introductory Signals Essential Guide: Part 1

Published September 10, 201910 min read
Introductory Signal

In legal writing, it is occasionally necessary to further clarify the significance or meaning of a particular citation and how relates to the writing itself. Introductory signals, also known as citation signals, are words and phrases used in legal writing to indicate to the reader how the writer intends to use a particular legal citation - whether it is for support, contradiction, comparison, or background information.

The use of introductory signals is notably complex and may frequently require judgement on the part of the author. As such, students and professionals experience some confusion with the subject. This guide will clearly explain, in plain-english and with examples, the different types of introductory signals, as prescribed by the Bluebook.

Broadly speaking - an introductory signal can function in 4 different ways - to show support, contradiction, comparison, or background information. First we will examine supporting introductory signals.

This is Part 1 of a 2 part series on Introductory Signals. See Part 2 here.

Supporting Signals

No Signal

The use of no signal at all before a citation indicates to the reader that the citation directly supports the text. Specifically, you would refrain from using any signal whatsoever before the citation when the citation is a) the source of a quotation, b) directly supports the text, or c) directly referring to the text. Below is an example of a citation with the use of no signal whatsoever.

Bluebook Introductory Signal Example 1


From the Latin exempli gratia, e.g. is used as a signal before a citation when the citation you are citing is just one of several sources that would have supported the judgement or opinion being stated in the writing. Below is an example of the use of the introductory signal e.g.

Bluebook Introductory Signal Example 2


A statement in legal writing that expresses a judgement or opinion may be supported by multiple sources. In some cases, the text of your writing may only refer to one of several citations that support what you are saying. In this case, you would use the introductory signal accord in front of the citations that support your proposition but are not directly quoted or referred to in the text. Below you will find an example of the use of accord.

Bluebook Introductory Signal Example 3


In some circumstances, a source or citation may support a statement in a piece of legal writing non-directly. That is to say—it is clear and obvious that the cited source supports what the author is saying but the reader needs to make some “leap” or inference in order to establish the connection between the writing and citation. This is when the introductory signal see would be used. Here is an example of the use of the see introductory signal.

Bluebook Introductory Signal Example 4

See also

There are circumstances in which a writer has already directly supported a statement they made in their writing with a citation but still wishes to add additional support. In this case, the signal see also would be used. Often, the writer will include some parenthetical information after the see also citation to explain its relevance. Here is an example of see also used as an introductory signal.

Bluebook Introductory Signal Example 5


The introductory signal cf. is latin for confer which translates to “compare”. This introductory signal indicates to the reader that while the statement being made in the writing isn’t directly supported by the citation, the citation still lends sufficient support (by analogy or otherwise). Like see also, the use of cf. is often accompanied by some parenthetical information for further explanation on the relevance of the citation. Here is an example of the cf. being used.

Bluebook Introductory Signal Example 6


This guide serves as a broad overview and reference to keep handy and take a look at over time. The rules from the Bluebook regarding the proper use of introductory signals are complex and require a fair amount of judgement. Use these Bluebook introductory signal examples and explanations as a starting point or a refresher. When creating your citation footnotes in your legal writing, be sure that your Bluebook citations are correct and complete. The LegalEase Citations Bluebook Citation Generator is designed to make the process as simple as possible for you while producing a completely accurate statute citation - no matter how complex. Try a free trial at LegalEase Citations today. Better citations lead to better grades. Better grades lead to law school success!

This is Part 1 of a 2 part series on Introductory Signals. See Part 2 here.

Ace your legal writing with perfect Bluebook citations

To be successful in law school, you need to be highly efficient with your time and you need to be accurate. LegalEase Citations will help you with both. Start your free trial now.

LegalEase Citations Bluebook Citation Generator Screenshot

LegalEase Citations Guides