I would like to format my references according to the following specifications:

Author: Surname, Initials, Co-authors: Initials, Surname

I am using natbib, abbrvnat for bibliography style and I guess I have to edit the .bst file (FUNCTION {format.names}).

I would appreciate if someone could help me with this or recommend something else.


1 Answer 1


To get the desired ordering of authors' first and last names, I suggest you do the following:

  • Find the file abbrvnat.bst in your TeX distribution. Make a copy of this file and name the copy, say, myabbrvnat.bst. (Don't edit a file from the TeX distribution directly.

  • Open the file myabbrvnat.bst in a text editor; the editor you use to edit your tex files will do fine.

  • Find the function format.names in the file. (In my copy of the file, this function starts on line 216. Delete all 27 or so lines of function; the last line will contain just a right curly brace, }.

  • Insert the following code chunk in the place of the deleted function:

    FUNCTION {format.names}
    { 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}" }
          't :=
          nameptr #1 >
              namesleft #1 >
                { ", " * t * }
                  s nameptr "{ll}" format.name$ duplicate$ "others" =
                    { 't := }
                    { pop$ }
                  "," *
                  t "others" =
                    { " et~al." * }
                    { " " * t * }
          nameptr #1 + 'nameptr :=
          namesleft #1 - 'namesleft :=
      } if$

    Do note that I've interpreted your specification as indicating that there should be no "and" connector word before the final author in the author list.

  • Save the file myabbrvnat.bst, either in the directory where your main tex file is located or in a folder that's searched by BibTeX. If you choose the latter method, be sure to udpate the filename database of your TeX distribution appropriately.

  • Start using the new bibliography style by replacing the instruction \bibliographystyle{abbrvnat} with \bibliographystyle{myabbrvnat}. Be sure to run LaTeX, BibTeX, and LaTeX twice more to fully propagate all changes.

Here's an example file:

enter image description here


  author    = "Anna Anderson and Brenda Branson and Carla Carlson",
  title     = "Random thoughts",
  journal   = "Circularity Today",
  year      = 3001,
  volume    = 1,
  number    = 1,
  pages     = "1-100",

  • Hi Mico, many thanks for your help. It works fine. I just added an and at ' { " " * t * } ' and now is ' { " and " * t * } ' in order to have the and before the last author. At last, do you know how I can specify the 'et al.' after a certain number of authors? Thanks a lot, Giorgos.
    – GioR
    Sep 4, 2014 at 8:22
  • @gioR - Glad you found my answer useful. :-) On your follow-up question: Do you want to truncate the list of authors in the citation callout or in the bib entries?
    – Mico
    Sep 4, 2014 at 11:19
  • I would like to truncate the list of authors in the citation callout. Giorgos
    – GioR
    Sep 4, 2014 at 11:22
  • If you load the natbib citation management package, the styles abbrvnat and myabbrvnat will automatically truncate the citation callout to FirstAuthor et al for entries with three or more authors.
    – Mico
    Sep 4, 2014 at 11:24
  • 1
    @daleif - I decided to make the temporary fix "official", i.e., to simply drop all uses of bibinfo and bibinfo.check in the replacement code.
    – Mico
    Feb 27, 2017 at 18:34

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