I recently found myself citing a particular paper:

Google Scholar gives the automatic bibtex reference as:

  author = {Siu, Elaine and Tam, Eric and Sin, Dorene and Ng, Cecilia and Lam,
    Emily and Chui, Mandy and Fong, Anita and Lam, Lorinda and Lam, Catherine},
  title = {A survey of augmentative and alternative communication service provision
    in Hong Kong},
  journal = {Augmentative and Alternative Communication},
  year = {2010},
  volume = {26},
  pages = {289--298},
  number = {4},
  publisher = {Informa Healthcare Stockholm}

And later on I had to go back and change the title to 'in {H}ong {K}ong' so that the captials displayed correctly. This set me wondering. Is there some documentation or source within Bibtex that explains why this is a nesscessary step? Instead of, for example, some sort of `Smart Case' setup where things that are uppercase stay uppercase and everything else is variable?

I'm looking for sources in the documentation or supporting materials. But well developed answers giving a bit of context would, of course, be lovely.

  • 2
    Ah, the old conflict between "Sentence style" and "Title style" for titles of bib entries! Many bibliography styles use "Sentence style" -- convert uppercase letters to lowercase, except for the very first letter -- for entries of type @article, @techreport, and @misc, and "Title style" -- don't change uppercase letters -- for entries of type @book and others. The bibliography style you use is evidently one that adheres to sentence style syntax for entries of type @article. Either get used to protecting letters that must not be lower-cased, or find a different bibliography style.
    – Mico
    Mar 17 '13 at 19:07

the messing around with upper/lower casing is not built in to bibtex, but unfortunately most styles use code such as this (from plain.bst)

FUNCTION {format.title}
{ title empty$
    { "" }
    { title "t" change.case$ }

the change.case$ function takes two arguments, the string to be applied (the title here) and then a control letter l for lower case t for so called title case and u for upper case.

Personally I think the .bib file should use the exact form used in the publication, and then the citation style should not mess with that and use whatever form is in the bib file, even if that leads to some inconsistencies in the references where some titles use a different capitalisation style to others. But I haven't written any of the standard bibtex styles so it isn't my opinion that counts:-)

However you always have the option of using a modified bibtex style that does not use change.case$ rather than adding extra {} to your .bib file.

  • Most Bibtex styles are also inconsistent with capitalization, e.g. capitalization of article titles is not preserved but capitalization of book titles is preserved.
    – Bart
    Aug 18 '19 at 6:06

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