I’m a big fan of ampersands (possibly too much …) and I’d like to replace all mentions of “et al.” (included in citations) by \& al. – both in the main text (I use natbib citations of the form [Author1 et al., 1999]), and in the actual bibliography?

How can I do that, considering that BibTeX is inserting the words for me, and I have no control over the text? Preferably, I’d like to do this without creating my own bibliography style sheet (since I want to make this work regardless of the actual BibTeX style that is used), but if anyone can tell me how I need to edit the style sheet file, that would be fine as well (makebst doesn’t seem to offer an option for this …).

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    Hmm, I really don't think it's a good idea - it's completely non-standard (incorrect?) and I think it would be distracting for the reader. – Neil Olver Aug 7 '10 at 14:54
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    @Neil: The great thing about standards is there are so many of them from which to choose :-) I have seen it, though mostly in older works. My guess is that it is somewhat a function of discipline and geography. – vanden Aug 7 '10 at 15:21
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    @Neil - you are aware that the ampersand began-as/is an "Et" ligature? – Heath Hunnicutt Aug 7 '10 at 19:31
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    Most style guides that I have encountered discourage the use of ampersands in anything other than proper nouns (such as law firm names for example). – dreamlax Aug 9 '10 at 1:12
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    @dreamlax: You are not familiar with many style guides, I think. One of the most prominent, APA, mandates use of & within parentheses for inline references, as does MLA. CUP style notes this use and additionally says that it may be used to mark a distinction. Its use is on the decline, I think, but it is very respectable: Fowler's 1st ed. of Modern English Usage used it liberally in place of "and". I'd like to see more widely used, because there are good opportunities for beautiful typography with it. – Charles Stewart Nov 18 '10 at 10:20

Using the biblatex package, you only need to redefine one bibliography string:




  author = {Author, A. and Buthor, B. and Cuthor, C.},
  year = {2010},
  title = {And now for something completely different},



Some text \autocite{Aut10}.



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Editing the .bst to make this kind of change is easy. Just search through the file and replace all instances of et al. with \& al. if that is your preference. In a few BSTs it may be entered differently, such as et~al. or similar, but this should be easy to figure out by looking in the generated BBL to find whatever form your particular BST is using.

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    Ah! That explains why I didn’t find any hits for et al. in my bst file: it’s et~al.. Thanks! – Konrad Rudolph Aug 8 '10 at 9:12
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    You can use perl -pi'.orig' -e 's/et(?: |~)al./\\\& al./g' test.bst, in fact you could do this on the .bbl file afterwards if you . NB. you have to use " rather than ' on windows, but then again if you have windows you probably don't have Perl. – Joel Berger Feb 2 '11 at 0:58

What type of citation style are you using, i.e. author name and year or numbers? If you are using numbered citations then you only need to make changes to the actual bibliography listing and the following method should work:

  1. Wait until the very end once you are sure that you don't need to run BibTeX again, i.e. when there are no further modifications to the .bib file needed and all the citations are in place in the .tex file.
  2. Do the usual LaTeX->BibTeX->LaTeX dance one last time just to be sure.
  3. Open the .bbl file in an editor and do a search and replace on "et al."

Now, next time you run LaTeX your bibliography will have your replacements in it. Be aware that running BibTeX again by accident will overwrite the .bbl file, so you might want to keep a copy of it in another directory just in case. Alternatively, you can just remove the bibliography commands from your .tex file and copy and paste the contents of the .bbl file in its place to have an old fashioned non-BibTeX bibliography.

BTW, editing the .bbl file like this can be a good way to correct minor annoyances in the way BibTeX works without writing your own stylesheet, but if you find yourself doing it a lot then it is probably time to bite the bullet and write one.

If you are using author and date style citations then I don't know how to change the "et al."s appearing in the main document itself without going in to the style file.

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    Hmm. I’m really opposed to editing (generated) intermediate files. Of course, this could be incorporated in the build process but it’s far from transparent. – Konrad Rudolph Aug 7 '10 at 19:51
  • The perl script given by Joel in a comment to the answer by Lev Bishop (or an equivalent sed script — it's all regexps after all) can be run on the bbl file as part of your build process. – Mikael Vejdemo-Johansson Nov 12 '11 at 23:46

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