Using pdflatex pi-2.6-1.40.15 and BibTeX 0.99d, when compiling my LaTeX documents with multiple .bib files, some of my references are not sorted by the first author last name properly. As an example, book.bib I have

@book {Connes,
    AUTHOR = {Connes, Alain},
     TITLE = {Noncommutative geometry},
 PUBLISHER = {Academic Press, Inc.},
   ADDRESS = {San Diego, CA},
      YEAR = {1994},

@book {Conway, 
    AUTHOR = {Conway, John B.},
     TITLE = {A Course in Functional Analysis},
 PUBLISHER = {Springer-Verlag},
   ADDRESS = {New York},
      YEAR = {1990},
    SERIES = {Graduate Texts in Mathematics},
    VOLUME = {96},
   EDITION = {2nd ed},

and in article.bib,

@article {Connes1989,
    AUTHOR = {Connes, Alain},
     TITLE = {Compact metric spaces, {F}redholm modules, and hyperfiniteness},
   JOURNAL = {Ergodic Theory Dynam. Systems},
  FJOURNAL = {Ergodic Theory and Dynamical Systems},
    VOLUME = {9},
      YEAR = {1989},
    NUMBER = {2},
     PAGES = {207--220},

bibtex will sort in the bibliography of document: Connes1989 first, then Conway, and finally Connes.

A test document for which I can see this behavior is:






This is confusing because some authors are properly sorted and others are not.

  • 2
    Without a minimal document that shows which bibliography style you are using this will not be possible to answer.
    – Alan Munn
    Apr 8, 2017 at 21:45
  • 1
    Sorting is determined by the bibliography style that's in use. Which one do you use?
    – Mico
    Apr 8, 2017 at 21:51
  • Please also show in the minimal document, how you include te multiple bib files. Apr 8, 2017 at 21:51
  • Added a minimal document now and the example bib files. Apr 8, 2017 at 21:58
  • I don't know much about the alpha style, but I suspect this behaviour is by design: it's sorting on the labels [ConYY] and so [Con94] comes after [Con90] in the sort order.
    – Alan Munn
    Apr 8, 2017 at 22:18

1 Answer 1


This is the expected behaviour with the alpha bibliography style. From the bibtex documentation (p.5):

The alpha style, however, sorts first by label, then “author”, year, and title.

This means that [Con89], [Con90] and [Con94] is the correct order according to that style.

If you want to continue to use the alpha style, then you can make a copy of alpha.bst and modify it to sort only by author and not label. Here's a question that does exactly that:

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