I'm using biblatex and \textcite, and most citations are appearing correctly with author initials appearing only when needed for disambiguation. But for just a few authors, the initials are always appearing even though the author names are unique. I checked that all my bibtex files cite these troublesome authors in exactly the same way. The surnames are unusual and I am sure they are unique in my bibtex files. What could cause this?

I have found that it only happens to entries which have a shorthand prefixed to them in the bibliography. E.g. the name Mawer triggers the problem in this entry:

PN Sx 1 = Mawer, Allen, F. M. Stenton, and with J. E. B. Gover (1929), The place-names of Sussex, part 1, vol. VI, The rapes of Chichester, Arundel and Bramber, Cambridge: English Place-Name Society

The shorthand prefix is created with this code:

    {\printfield{shorthand}\printtext{ = }}}

Here is an example:

    {\printfield{shorthand}\printtext{ = }}}

See \textcite{mawer-nth} and \textcite{epns-Bk}.


It gives this output when the two entries are in different bibtex files, as in the code above:

See A. Mawer (1920) and Mawer and Stenton (PN Bk).

However, if I put the problem entries in a single bibtex file, the problem goes away.

These are the .bbl entries:

      \field{labeltitle}{{The place-names of Northumberland and Durham}}
      \field{title}{{The place-names of Northumberland and Durham}}
        {{hash=7e3d1c286187382e0f79c1973fb3b5ea}{Stenton}{S\bibinitperiod}{F.\bibnamedelimi M.}{F\bibinitperiod\bibinitdelim M\bibinitperiod}{}{}{}{}}%
        {English Place-Name Society}%
      \field{labeltitle}{The place-names of Buckinghamshire}
      \field{shorthand}{PN Bk}
      \field{title}{The place-names of Buckinghamshire}

Thanks to everyone who commented - it does seem to be the shortauthor field which causing the problem. If this is my bibtex file:

@book{epns-Bk, title= "The place-names of Buckinghamshire", author= "Allen Mawer and F. M. Stenton", volume= {II}, year= {1925}, shorthand={PN Bk}, shortauthor="Mawer and Stenton", publisher={English Place-Name Society}, }

@book{mawer-nth, title= "The place-names of Northumberland and Durham", author= "Allen Mawer", year= "1920", publisher="CUP", shortauthor="Mawer", address= "Cambridge", }

with shortauthor in both cases, then there is no problem. But if shortauthor appears in only one entry, the problem of unwanted initials reappears. So I'm not sure how I can use shortauthor consistently.

  • 1
    Can you show us an eaxmple to reproduce that? – Johannes_B Jan 22 '16 at 14:06
  • I'd like to, but it's a 600 page book, so getting a small MWE may be difficult, but I'll have a go if it would help. – KeithB Jan 22 '16 at 14:49
  • I bet if that happens on page 376 all we need is some dummy text, that bibentry which is cited an all the biblatex settings. Build a compilable example around that and test it. Do you see the behaviour? Great, post exactly that code. If it happens on page 502, do the same. Actually, it doesn't matter on which page it happens (i guess). – Johannes_B Jan 22 '16 at 16:24
  • It would really, really help if we could get that MWE. Without it, the only thing I can say is that normally this feature works quite well. Sometimes it is a problem that for biblatex Donald Knuth and Donald E. Knuth are two different people and they get disambiguated. – moewe Jan 22 '16 at 17:12
  • Thanks for the suggestions - I'm working on a MWE, but it will take a little time... – KeithB Jan 22 '16 at 17:15

The solution here seems to be: don't use shortauthor. In the example you have shown there is no point using shortauthor the way you did, biblatex can figure that stuff out for itself. The biblatex docs say about shortauthor (p. 22)

This field is mainly intended for abbreviated forms of corporate authors

If you for some reason need to use shortauthor, make sure to still give all names consistently. For biblatex Allen Mawer is not Mawer, so use

  author = {Allen Mawer and {National Aeronautics and Space Administration}},
  shortauthor = {Allen Mawer and {NASA}},
  title = {The Moon Landing},
  year = {1969},

and not shortauthor = {Mawer and {NASA}}, the output will still be "Mawer and NASA" in both cases.

| improve this answer | |
  • Yes, I see now that I was using shortauthor to cover up other deficiencies in my methods. However, I do have a special requirement - say I want to refer to a very well-known author hundreds of times, and there is just one citation of another author of the same surname. Then I don't really need disambiguation - everybody knows who the well-known author is, and having all the initials every time just clutters up the text. – KeithB Jan 24 '16 at 11:43
  • @KeithB Well, then either disable the uniquename feature or use shortauthor for all of your well known authors with only their last names. But then all works involving "Allen Mawer" will need a shortauthor field where he is only Mawer. Since biblatex doesn't really know who is famous, there is no real way to automate this, though there might be semi-automatic ways. – moewe Jan 24 '16 at 15:07

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