I'm having some difficulty trying to get BibTeX to show an Author's surname followed by multiple initials in my bibliography. I have quite a large bibliography and I have several authors, including myself, that have very common first names and surnames (e.g. Smith, C.). The only way to distinguish ourselves is by our middle initials.

I've used this answer here to create a "myplainnat.bst", replacing

{ s nameptr "{ff~}{vv~}{ll}{, jj}" format.name$ 't :=


{ s nameptr "{vv~}{ll}{, f.}{, jj}" format.name$ 't :=

so that I get a reference that is formatted:

Other, A., Other, A. Title. Journal. vvv.iii.pp-pp. DOI

But I can't work out which bit of the code I'm supposed to change to get something along the lines of:

Other, A.N. Other, A.J. Title. Journal. vvv.iii.pp-pp. DOI

Initially I thought it would be the f's in the code, so I added f.f.f. but this prevented any initials from being displayed. If anyone could shed some light on this that would be great.

Here's a MWE of my code:


% International language package - allows use of special characters
% Natural bibliography package - allows compliation of a bibliography
% Caption package - allows captioning of figures and tables
% Nomenclature package - allows for the creation of a nomenclature

%%  DOCUMENT  %%

\chapter{Literature review}
\section{Radioactive decay}\label{sec:radioactive decay}

I'd like to cite some text with author's with multiple initials \citep{fitch1974timescale}.  And here's another one \citep{buchholz2007uranium}.




   author = {Fitch, F. J. and Forster, S. C. and Miller, J. A.},
   title = {{Geological time scale}},
   journal = {Reports on Progress in Physics},
   volume = {37},
   number = {11},
   pages = {1433-1496},
   abstract = {Presents a brief discussion of the assumptions, accuracy and precision of 'geological' errors present in physical geochronometry. The five major physical methods of rock and mineral age determinations currently in use, are described.},
   year = {1974}

   author = {Buchholz, B.A. and Brown, T.A. and Hamilton, T.F. and Hutcheon, I.D. and Marchetti, A.A. and Martinelli, R.E. and Ramon, E.C. and Tumey, S.J. and Williams, R.W.},
   title = {{Investigating uranium isotopic distributions in environmental samples using AMS and MC-ICPMS}},
   journal = {Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section B: Beam Interactions with Materials and Atoms},
   volume = {259},
   number = {1},
   pages = {733-738},
   year = {2007},
   doi = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.nimb.2007.01.248}

And here's a link to my modified myplainnat.bst file.

Here's an image of what my bibliography output looks like, as you can see each author only shows one initial, despite multiple initials being present in the bibliography file. enter image description here

  • I've taken the liberty of editing the title and first sentence of your posting, replacing "natbib" with "BibTeX", because natbib is a citation management package. As such, it does not affect the formatting of bibliographic entries. It's the style file specified in the \bibliographystyle instruction that specifies all formatting-related matters.
    – Mico
    Commented Feb 17, 2014 at 9:47
  • It's a bit puzzling that the bibtex snippet "{vv~}{ll}{, f.}{, jj}" isn't generating all first and middle initials. Did you update the \bibliographystyle command to point to the new .bst file, and did you then run LaTeX, BibTeX, and LaTeX twice more? Please consider amending your query and posting a couple of bib entries that feature authors with multiple first names, for which you're currently experiencing the problem that only the first name but no middle names are shown (in abbreviated form)?
    – Mico
    Commented Feb 17, 2014 at 10:03
  • 2
    There's nothing strange: you have Fitch, F. J. so the “first name” has two tokens, but in Buchholz, B.A. the first name is B.A. which is one token only.
    – egreg
    Commented Feb 17, 2014 at 10:37

1 Answer 1


Thanks for posting a complete MWE and a couple of bib entries. The problem, it turns out, is that in the entry buchholz2007uranium the authors' first and middle initials are clumped together without an intervening space. If you set the author field of that entry to

   author = {Buchholz, B. A. and Brown, T. A. and Hamilton, T. F. and Hutcheon, I. D. 
             and Marchetti, A. A. and Martinelli, R. E. and Ramon, E. C. and Tumey, S. J. 
             and Williams, R. W.},

you'll be in business.

  • 1
    D'oh, that really should have been obvious! Thanks. I guess I'll just have to be be more careful when importing reference into my master bibliography.
    – cjms85
    Commented Feb 17, 2014 at 10:45
  • @cjms85 - The thing to remember about BibTeX's method for parsing a full name into first, von, last, and junior components is that BibTeX makes no assumptions about which characters are permitted inside a given component; it only sees spaces and commas as separators. Thus, while BibTeX (correctly) identifies "B.A." as the first-name part of the full name, it doesn't "know" that periods inside this string represent abbreviations. It thus -- correctly, according to its syntax rules... -- abbreviates "B.A." down to "B." if the { f.} formatting specifier is found in the .bst file...
    – Mico
    Commented Feb 17, 2014 at 10:52
  • Thanks again for the clarification. Could I suggest that you add something similar to what you've just said above in this post link, as it's a higher ranked answer, and therefore more likely to be seen. I think it would be really helpful if you could clarify what the different parts of this code, { s nameptr "{vv~}{ll}{, f.}{, jj}" format.name$ 't :=, refer to do.
    – cjms85
    Commented Feb 17, 2014 at 11:48
  • @cjms85 - Done!
    – Mico
    Commented Feb 17, 2014 at 13:46
  • That's great. Thank you for taking the time out to write such a detailed explanation!
    – cjms85
    Commented Feb 17, 2014 at 13:53

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