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Normally, I'm basically OK with bibtex's choice of citation key (by which I mean, the short symbol it shows in the final document, like [2] or [Hil05], not the one one types in the tex file), but every once in a while there's a paper that cries out for a particular key (such as the paper of Freyd, Hoste, Lickorish, Millet, Ocneano and Yetter in which the HOMFLY polynomial is defined clearly should have the key [HOMFLY], not [FHL+95]), or bibtex picks a particularly bad one.

In these cases, is there a field one can insert into the bibtex entry to override the key choice, or something one can do other than editing the .bbl file?

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4 Answers

Using biblatex, you may add the shorthand field:




  shorthand = {Author},
  author = {Author, A.},
  year = {2001},
  title = {Alpha},
  author = {Buthor, B.},
  year = {2002},
  title = {Bravo},






enter image description here

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If you use the natbib package, you can declare an "alias" or alternative citation for a source:

For example, the following .bib entry:

    Author = {{California Department of Transportation}},
    Title = {{Humboldt Bay Bridges Seismic Substructure Retrofit Environmental  Assessment/Finding of No Significant Impact (EA/FONSI)}},
    Year = {2002}}

Produces the following output when \citep{caltrans2002} used in a document:

Example citation without alias.

Having a citation that spans most of a line can be pretty bothersome- especially when the full name has to appear in the bibliography but there is a nice shorthand that should be used when citing in the text. By including \usepackage{natbib} in your preamble, you have access to citation aliases:

\defcitealias{caltrans2002}{\scshape CalTrans, 2002}

Then using \citepalias{caltrans2002} instead of \citep{caltrans2002} produces the following output:

Example citation using an alias.

In both cases, the associated entry in the bibliography looks like this:

Example bibliography text.

The LaTeX and BibTeX source I used to create this example can be obtained from GitHub.

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Alternatively, you can modify your .bbl file by hand. You could even use sed to automatically make the desired change after each time you regenerate the .bbl file using BIBTEX --- I can show you the details if you like (ask a new question?).

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Just edit the sed-fu into this answer. –  Novelocrat Jul 27 '10 at 1:03
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There's actually a pretty good answer over at Stack Overflow: Is there a way to override a bibtex style file for a particular entry?.

The fact that the programming language BIBTEX style files (.bst) are written in is called BAFLL may alert you to the fact that this sort of problem is a pain to deal with.

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