I am having some issues while using BibTeX to cite papers in an article I am writing. The journal I am submitting to supplies their own *.bst and *.sty files that are supposed to format to the journal's desired style.

The problem is I am having really incosistent behavior with Author truncating (i.e. et al). In some places when I am citing the same paper I get:

Author1 et al. (2003)

whereas in others I get:

Author1, Author2, Author3, and Author4 (2003)

This is all while using \cite{key} in the same way. To try and diagnose the issue I took a look at the paper.aux file. In this file I can see that the Authors are correctly parsed by BibTeX. Here is an example of the *.aux file entry:

\bibcite{key}{{5}{2003}{{Author1 et~al.}}{{Author1, Author2, Author3, and Author4}}}

To me the next logical step is to take a look at the *.bst file. Unfortunately I am very inexperienced with BibTeX. Here is the code that I think is relevant from the *.bst file:

FUNCTION {bbl.etal}
{ "et~al." }
FUNCTION {format.names}
{ 'bibinfo :=
  duplicate$ empty$ 'skip$ {
  's :=
  "" 't :=
  #1 'nameptr :=
  s num.names$ 'numnames :=
  numnames 'namesleft :=
    { namesleft #0 > }
    { s nameptr
      duplicate$ #1 >
        { "{f.~}{vv~}{ll}{, jj}" }
        { "{vv~}{ll}{, f.}{, jj}" }
      bibinfo bibinfo.check
      't :=
      nameptr #1 >
          namesleft #1 >
            { ", " * t * }
              s nameptr "{ll}" format.name$ duplicate$ "others" =
                { 't := }
                { pop$ }
              numnames #2 >
                { "," * }
              t "others" =
                  " " * bbl.etal *
                  space.word * t *
      nameptr #1 + 'nameptr :=
      namesleft #1 - 'namesleft :=
  } if$
  • 3
    et al. appended to the first author name is mostly used only if the cited source has more than three authors. Otherwise all authors are listed. Do you see a different behavior?
    – caustic
    May 18, 2011 at 21:40
  • I apologize, this is actually for a reference that contains 4 authors, I just simplified the scenario for the sake of discussion. Hopefully that answers your question.
    – picomp
    May 19, 2011 at 16:41
  • 3
    Some BibTeX styles expand the full list of authors the first time you cite the paper, and use et al on subsequent cites IIRC. Maybe that's what's happening?
    – You
    May 19, 2011 at 17:43
  • That does appear to be the problem. Does anyone know of a way to suppress this behavior?
    – picomp
    May 21, 2011 at 17:50
  • 3
    The journal have provided the style files, and this will reflect their editorial policy. Unless they agree, you should stick to their style. (Authors deciding 'well, I prefer XXX' is a constant problem for publishers.)
    – Joseph Wright
    Jun 30, 2011 at 15:19

1 Answer 1


You seem, in your latest comment, intent on finding a way to monitor such behaviour.

You should give a try at biblatex, which is very complete and highly configurable.

For your precise case, you would use \usepackage[maxnames=99]{biblatex}, which would always display all the authors.

  • 1
    Not sure how useful this answer is - the journal style doesn't use biblatex.
    – Audrey
    Jun 30, 2011 at 15:35

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