Currently I have a bibtex bibliography which I include with


This gives me labels of the form [Abc01], [AA02] and [AAA03].

Now I want, that all authors are abbreviated by a unique and distinct label. So the above labels would become [Ab01], [AbAd02] and [AdAeAf03].

Is there a bibtex style which does this? I would also be completely fine with manually giving these labels. How can I do that?

Note: I would consider moving to biblatex or biber if there was a solution that uses them.

The following could be used as a minimal working example:


Cite \cite{lm1989}, \cite{mm1998} and \cite{melrose1996}.


  Title                    = {Spin Geometry},
  Author                   = {Lawson, Jr., H. Blaine and Marie-Louise Michelsohn},
  Publisher                = {Princeton University Press},
  Year                     = {1989},

  Title                    = {Pseudodifferential Operators on Manifolds with Fibred Boundaries},
  Author                   = {Rafe Mazzeo and Richard B. Melrose},
  Journal                  = {Asian Journal of Mathematics},
  Year                     = {1998},

  Month                    = {December},
  Number                   = {4},
  Pages                    = {833-866},
  Volume                   = {2},

  Title                    = {Differential Analysis on Manifolds with Corners},
  Author                   = {Richard B. Melrose},
  Year                     = {1996},
  Url                      = {http://www-math.mit.edu/~rbm/book.html}

Compile it with

pdflatex test
bibtex test
pdflatex test
pdflatex test

To get example screenshot

As you can see, on the one hand there are Ms with three different meanings and on the other hand Melrose is once denoted by M and once by Mel.

  • 1
    Is it appropriate to assume that unique abbreviations will always be readily available? Or, will the code have to make allowance for publications by authors who share the exact same names? E.g., what about books by Grimm & Grimm (of fairy tale fame) or papers by the brothers Bernoulli (who, IIRC, also shared the same first initial, "J")? – Mico Dec 20 '16 at 11:01
  • @Mico: Yes, currently there are no such corner cases in my bibliography. So they are not that important. Of course if I could define the labels manually, I would be able to find ad hoc solutions. – bodo Dec 20 '16 at 21:35
  • 3
    You are long enough on this site to know that it improves the probability to get an answer if you add code (in this case example bib-entries) which allows to run tests. Beside this I think you haven't really thought through your system. What should e.g. happen with authors which share the same first 5,6, or 10 letters? E.g. Schmidt, Schwarzenbach and Schwarzenburg? – Ulrike Fischer Jan 3 '17 at 9:16
  • 1
    Maybe a critical question: by creating such complex labels as "[AdAeAf03]", the chances are very high, that your gentle reader will be highly confused by trying to remember those labels, when searching in the reference list. The more combinations you enter, the more confusion will be. – Jan Jan 4 '17 at 8:46

Have you had a look at biblatex's \DeclareLabelalphaTemplate?

Maybe this is what you are looking for?


which results in

Agassi, Chang, Laver [AChaLa]

Agassi, Connors, Lendl [AConLe]

Agassi, Courier, Laver [ACouLa]

Borg, Connors, Edberg [BConEd]

Borg, Connors, Emerson [BConEm]

see http://tug.ctan.org/macros/latex/exptl/biblatex/doc/biblatex.pdf

| improve this answer | |
  • 4
    This does what the OP probably wants, but it is imho a misuse of the option as it leads to citation labels like [Schwarzenbuch] [Schwarzenberg] [Ministerium für L] [Ministerium für K] which is rather absurd (and I made tests only for one author). Using varwidth instead of varwidthnorm gives [Schwarzenbu] [Schwarzenbe] [Ministerium für L] [Ministerium für K] which isn't much better. – Ulrike Fischer Jan 4 '17 at 16:38
  • Do I need biber for this to work? Maybe you could expand the answer with a working example. – bodo Jan 9 '17 at 12:06

The first priority should be to follow your style manual for the paper you are authoring. If the style manual does not ask for this feature, I would recommend against trying to add it to the paper. If you are writing from a template for a publishinghouse and they provided this style, do not change it.

Depending on your citations, this may not be feasible. Even if there was a citation style that uniquely identified the authors in the manner you are hoping, your bibTeX file would not have the information to distinguish between several different individuals by the name of John Smith or Mike Nguyen. Even in your MWE, how should I know if the individuals are really Richard Boise Melrose and Richard Bern Melrose or in fact the same person?

In this case, the important factor is that the reader can quickly and easily find the full citation for the the references in the worked cited, and your current citation style already does that. If you want it to be easier for the reader to obtain the author's full name and the work cited, the Chicago style of citations using the footnote style and full citation information may be what you want. For this citation, a foot-mark is placed at the point of citation with a footnote in the footer of the same page with the full bibliographic citation, as noted in the link to the style guide.

Assuming that this is for a university—that this is not a new and peculiar requirement of one advisor—and that the university encourages papers to be authored in LaTeX, I would ask if they already have a bibliography style (*.bst) which meets the university requirements (or is considered acceptable); they should also have their own style manual which states their requirements or which style manual they follow. In this same vein, the other members of the faculty or recent graduates may have template files for the document and reference style which are deemed acceptable.

| improve this answer | |
  • I have no style manual to follow, but my adviser told me to change my citations this way. Unfortunately, what you mean by footnote style is not clear. Could you provide an example or link to some explanation? Meanwhile I will try out the Chicago style and see what my adviser thinks about that. – bodo Jan 4 '17 at 11:53
  • 1
    I have updated my answer. One last thought is to ask your advisor why style provides citations in the manner they are asking. With that information, it should be relatively easy to find and acceptable *.bst file for your document. If they know of no style which provides citations in this manner, you might wish to point out (using some of the examples we have provided) that there is likely a very good reason for that. – Tavrock Jan 4 '17 at 14:43

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