If I have multiple authors with the same surname, then \citeauthor always prints their first initials when using the author-year style provided by Biblatex.

It would not be too bad if this occurred only the first time the author was cited in a section or paragraph, but it becomes stupidly repetitive when the same author is mentioned multiple times, while no other author with the same surname gets a look-in.

Biblatex insists on doing this even when the author-year label does not need to include the initial to be unique - for example, because no authors with the same surname published cited sources in a single year. But the main point is that the usage is totally insensitive to context. It doesn't matter that this is the author I'm discussing in this section and there's no ambiguity at all, Biblatex doesn't care.

many ministers

I don't recall if older versions of Biblatex did this, but I've certainly only noticed it with recent versions, so it might be an effect of the recent changes to name handling.

How can I avoid the inclusion of the initial? I'm fine if I need to define a command other than \citeauthor for this, so long as I can use the same command everywhere I currently use \citeauthor (and similarly for \Citeauthor).

I know this is not a problem with numeric citation styles, but those really aren't an option for me. It has to be author-year. Also, adding shortauthor to every entry in my database files is not an appealing option, even if this works. (I haven't tried it because I regard it as absolutely a last resort.)

Here's an MWE:

  author    =   {Minister, Prime},
  title     =   {What I Did},
  journal   =   {Westminster Chronicles},
  volume    =   11,
  number    =   2,
  pages     =   {33--56},
  year      =   2003}
  author    =   {Minister, Yes},
  title     =   {What I Said},
  journal   =   {Westminster Chronicles},
  volume    =   13,
  number    =   3,
  pages     =   {78--95},
  year      =   2005}
\Citeauthor{minister-wis} discusses this matter in \citetitle{minister-wis} \autocite*{minister-wis}, arguing that black may, after all, be white and that zebra crossings should, therefore, be banned.
Although \citeauthor{minister-wis} does not explicitly mention the implications of this argument, it is clear that it entails nothing less than an identification of red with green and the demise of the nation's caterpillars.

A lot of other rubbish then follows, discussing many things and not limited, for example, to cabbages or kings.

Then there is a brief mention of some other stuff \autocite{minister-wid}.


I know that \citeauthor etc. is essentially producing the labelname list although it is not, in fact, the list as it appears in the label in the bibliography, since names appear there in full.

I'm assuming that it is basically outputting a formatted version of \field{labelname} which ends up producing author for the simple cases above, as explained on page 188 in the explanation of \DelcareLabelname.

However, \citename{minister-wis}{labelname} does not, in fact, give the same output as \citeauthor{minister-wis}, so I assume the latter is using another format for the field.

I can say

\DeclareNameFormat{enwteulu}{% addaswyd o biblatex.def

and then


produces just the surname. I realise that I should make a wrapper command rather than use \citename. But is this the right direction to go in or is there a simpler solution?

Is the default behaviour even the intended output or is it a bug? It seems exceptionally kludgey and awkward, and quite unsuitable for a default!

  • 3
    I don't think biblatex checks name+date for disambiguation, just names --- setting uniquename counter to 0, 1, 2 as needed. So does the option uniquename=false do what you want? Your citations should just be Minister now. Of course, then you get bad output if your document also has an entry like: @article{minister-wik, author = {Minister, No}, title = {What I Know}, journal = {Westminster Chronicles}, volume = 13, number = 3, pages = {78--95}, year = 2005} (I.e., same year, but different author.)
    – jon
    Sep 12 '16 at 3:12
  • 3
    +1 for Mr Hacker and Sir Humphrey. Context sensitivity is a complicated thing to achieve. (biblatex would have to have a notion of context and would have to be able to scan ahead.) Currently the name format you get from \citeauthor is intricately linked to the output by \cite. If you want disambiguation in \cites, you will also get them in \citeauthor. (BTW: \citeauthor prints labelname with the labelname format, \citename{...}{labelname} prints labelname in citename format, which defaults to default.)
    – moewe
    Sep 12 '16 at 7:05
  • 4
    Imho you are trying to let the computer do something humans can much better. You know and see the context, so why don't you simply write Although Minister does or Although he does or -- if you need biblatex help to write the name correctly - Although \citelastname{minister-wis} does (with a suitable new \citelastname)? Sep 12 '16 at 7:49

Sorry to disagree, but I think the default solution is the best. AT least, it is the standard recommendation. For instance, see http://www.lib.umd.edu/tl/guides/citing-chicago-ad (sectio : "How to construct an in-text parenthetical reference") or http://www.cws.illinois.edu/workshop/writers/citation/apa/intextcitation/, or again : http://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2014/01/when-to-use-author-initials-for-text-citations.html. Even if for you as an author, there is no ambiguity when changing locally the references, for a reader (and a publisher), the situation is different : we want the same label all along in the article (and sorry, thus, to be able to skip a paragraph without being lost). A key issue in bibliography and typography is consistency (whatever the choice, the same all along: see http://www.math.illinois.edu/~ajh/tex/bibliographies.html, which addresses also the first issue). The author date system allows/should allow the reader to know immediately who is writing about what. All the most because often, publishers will erase the first name after one instance of it.

  • This posting reads more like a comment than an answer. Could you maybe add some references to support your view?
    – Mico
    Sep 12 '16 at 7:33
  • APA requires the use of initials to disambiguate surnames on each relevant occurrence as described in the APA blog Sep 12 '16 at 8:42
  • @Mico. Sorry, you are right. I have added references. As the question also asked for the best solution, I allow myself to address this,not only the LaTeX code issue. I hope it is ok.
    – Catherine
    Sep 12 '16 at 8:52
  • If publishers erase the first name after one instance of it, then don't you end up with just the surnames anyway? Note that there is no question of having non-unique labels. The author/year labels here are unique because no authors sharing a surname publish in the same year. However, these labels don't match in text and in the bibliography, because by default initials are used in the text to disambiguate, while the bibliography contains full names. So there's no consistency either.
    – cfr
    Sep 12 '16 at 12:34
  • Then your question is: how to get rid of the first initial in all the cases, because there is no ambiguity in your case ? I understood that you wanted to change the way a reference is indicated according to the paragraph/context. Consistency in APA : same way of refering to one book or article all along.
    – Catherine
    Sep 12 '16 at 15:14

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