Using BibTeX, I would like to cite a paper by an author whose last name has two words. The reason why this is an issue is that if I just write Jan A. Van Mieghem in the author field of the .bib file, BibTeX will treat "Mieghem" as the last name and "Jan A. Van" as the first name, which isn't correct. I have seen two ways of correcting this:

Jan A. {Van Mieghem} and Van Mieghem, Jan A.

Are these two handled the same by BibTeX? If not, what is the difference, and which one should be preferred?

  • 6
    Prefer author={Van Mieghem, Jan A.}, it's clearer.
    – egreg
    Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 20:42
  • 1
    @egreg Thank you. What do you mean by "clearer" though? To a human reader?
    – tvk
    Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 20:45
  • Yes, that's the idea.
    – egreg
    Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 20:45
  • Patashnik's btxdoc.pdf covers names in some detail (search for "von"). Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 21:16
  • 1
    @musarithmia You can check Refering to someone whose name has an aristocratic particle on english.SE for that regard.
    – ebosi
    Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 20:51

2 Answers 2


First, some examples of names with Two-word surnames

Charles De Gaulle
Martin Van Buren
Kristin Scott Thomas
Helena Bonham Carter
Antonio Garcia Pascual
Marco Del Negro
Vincent Van Gogh
Piero Della Francesca [also written as "Piero della Francesca"]

(In case you're curious: The first two are former Presidents of their respective countries; the middle two are actresses; the next two are professional economists; and the final two are painters. Vincent, hopefully, needs no special introduction...)

With all of these names, it would be quite wrong (i) to typeset their names as C. D. Gaulle, M. V. Buren, K. S. Thomas, etc. or (ii) to generate citation call-outs of the form "Negro and Pascual 2015". (Correct: Del Negro and Garcia Pascual 2015.)

To inform BibTeX that it's not dealing with authors (or editors...) with one first name, one middle name (De, Van, Scott, Bonham, etc), and one surname and, instead, with authors/editors that all have one first name and a two-word surname, the names should be entered into the author and editor fields either as (using commas)

De Gaulle, Charles
Van Buren, Martin
Scott Thomas, Kristin
Bonham Carter, Helena
Garcia Pascual, Antonio
Del Negro, Marco
Van Gogh, Vincent
Della Francesca, Piero

or as (using curly braces)

Charles {De Gaulle}
Martin {Van Buren}
Kristin {Scott Thomas}
Helena {Bonham Carter}
Antonio {Garcia Pascual}
Marco {Del Negro}
Vincent {Van Gogh}
Piero {Della Francesca}

I personally prefer the first of the two possibilities.

Turning to the final part of your query: Both Jan A. {Van Mieghem} and Van Mieghem, Jan A. are syntacically correct, in the sense that BibTeX has enough information to figure out what the surname component is. That said, I personally prefer the second form, viz., Van Mieghem, Jan A..

Aside: Note that the case of names containing a two-word surname is quite distinct from the case of names that contain a "von component" and a single-word surname.

  • 6
    I believe that Monsieur le Président was, in fact, 'Charles de Gaulle' (note the lowercase 'd'). It's worthy of mention because a) I'm a pedant, and because b) BibTeX would, in fact, render 'Charles de Gaulle' correctly, as 'C. de Gaulle' – I gather that it's 'smart' enough to assume that a lowercase 'middle' name is part of / a prefix of the surname.
    – owjburnham
    Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 14:31
  • See also Mico's comment, tex.stackexchange.com/questions/204697/…
    – owjburnham
    Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 14:32
  • @owjburnham - My bad! In case you're curious, I had initially considered using the name Valéry Giscard d'Estaing for this answer, but I didn't like the fact that the second part of that surname started with a lowercase letter. I then fell back on CDG; obviously, I should have verified the correct spelling of his name more thoroughly...
    – Mico
    Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 14:44
  • 1
    And I didn't see that you were the same person as the Mico who wrote that comment. So my bad!
    – owjburnham
    Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 14:52
  • Not sure, whether this is ever relevant, but wouldn't encapsulating with curly braces also always preserve the case (e.g. meaning they can never be converted to lowercase in case the citation style requires that)? Possibly there are other, more relevant examples.
    – clel
    Commented May 10, 2022 at 9:27

BibTex allows in this case possible forms for the name:

"Jan A. {van Mieghem}"
"{van Mieghem}, Jan A."

You can use the curly braces {} to isolate parts that you want to keep together.

Both ways are fine.

Source: here

  • Instead of parentheses, don't you mean curly braces?
    – JRN
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 6:22
  • Indeed. { and }.
    – rvaneijk
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 6:24
  • 5
    This answer does not address the original query. As far as BibTeX is concerned, there's a significant difference between Jan A. Van Mieghem (what the OP wrote) and Jan A. van Mieghem (what you're writing). Your form of the name has, using BibTeX jargon, a "von component", as van is written with a lower-case "v". Observe that this is not the case in the form of the name that the OP was concerned with. Using the default parsing rules, BibTeX will interpret Van as a middle name instead of as the name's "von component". Please amend your answer to fix this discrepancy.
    – Mico
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 7:04
  • 3
    The brackets solution has proved relevant for another related situation the case of Pline l'Ancien. I succeeded in producing a correct reference with author = {{Pline l'Ancien}} Commented Jun 13, 2019 at 9:37

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .