My style employs BibLaTeX/Biber and requires two author papers to be cited as "AAuthor and BAuthor, 2015". In contrast, when reference has more than two authors, "AAuthor et al. 2015".






This reference has two authors \autocite{Boettcher:2015aa} and looks good. While this reference has more than two \autocite{Mohr:2014aa}, but I would like it to be cited as ``Mohr et al. 2014". Bad behavior depends on presence of second citation \autocite{Mohr:2016aa}.



More than two authors

I have tried fiddling with uniquename=false but it seems to have no effect. Using maxcitenames=2 correctly renders citations with more than two authors, but now two author citations are incorrectly rendered as "Boettcher et al."

As requested by @hesham, here is the bib file, test.bib:

%% This BibTeX bibliography file was created using BibDesk.
%% http://bibdesk.sourceforge.net/

%% Saved with string encoding Unicode (UTF-8) 

    Abstract = {The rapid rise of CRISPR as a technology for genome engineering and related research applications has created a need for algorithms and associated online tools that facilitate design of on-target and effective guide RNAs (gRNAs). Here, we review the state of the art in CRISPR gRNA design for research applications of the CRISPR-Cas9 system, including knockout, activation, and inhibition. Notably, achieving good gRNA design is not solely dependent on innovations in CRISPR technology. Good design and design tools also rely on availability of high-quality genome sequence and gene annotations, as well as on availability of accumulated data regarding off-targets and effectiveness metrics.},
    Author = {Mohr, Stephanie E and Hu, Yanhui and Ewen-Campen, Benjamin and Housden, Benjamin E and Viswanatha, Raghuvir and Perrimon, Norbert},
    Date-Added = {2016-11-09 06:14:27 +0000},
    Date-Modified = {2019-10-13 15:42:57 -0700},
    Doi = {10.1111/febs.13777},
    Journal = {FEBS J},
    Journal-Full = {The FEBS journal},
    Keywords = {CRISPR-Cas9; CRISPRa; CRISPRi; bioinformatics; gene editing; genome annotation; genome engineering},
    Month = {Sep},
    Number = {17},
    Pages = {3232-8},
    Pmc = {PMC5014588},
    Pmid = {27276584},
    Pst = {ppublish},
    Title = {{CRISPR} guide {RNA} design for research applications},
    Volume = {283},
    Year = {2016},
    Bdsk-Url-1 = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/febs.13777}}

    Abstract = {Gene silencing through sequence-specific targeting of mRNAs by RNAi has enabled genome-wide functional screens in cultured cells and in vivo in model organisms. These screens have resulted in the identification of new cellular pathways and potential drug targets. Considerable progress has been made to improve the quality of RNAi screen data through the development of new experimental and bioinformatics approaches. The recent availability of genome-editing strategies, such as the CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats)-Cas9 system, when combined with RNAi, could lead to further improvements in screen data quality and follow-up experiments, thus promoting our understanding of gene function and gene regulatory networks.},
    Author = {Mohr, Stephanie E and Smith, Jennifer A and Shamu, Caroline E and Neum{\"u}ller, Ralph A and Perrimon, Norbert},
    Date-Added = {2016-11-08 23:12:35 +0000},
    Date-Modified = {2019-10-21 22:29:07 -0700},
    Doi = {10.1038/nrm3860},
    Journal = {Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol},
    Journal-Full = {Nature reviews. Molecular cell biology},
    Mesh = {Animals; Gene Regulatory Networks; Genetic Testing; Humans; Inverted Repeat Sequences; RNA Interference; RNA, Small Interfering},
    Month = {Sep},
    Number = {9},
    Pages = {591-600},
    Pmc = {PMC4204798},
    Pmid = {25145850},
    Pst = {ppublish},
    Title = {{RNAi} screening comes of age: improved techniques and complementary approaches},
    Volume = {15},
    Year = {2014},
    Bdsk-Url-1 = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nrm3860}}

    Abstract = {The most widely used approach for defining gene function is to reduce or completely disrupt its normal expression. For over a decade, RNAi has ruled the lab, offering a magic bullet to disrupt gene expression in many organisms. However, new biotechnological tools--specifically CRISPR-based technologies--have become available and are squeezing out RNAi dominance in mammalian cell studies. These seemingly competing technologies leave research investigators with the question: "Which technology should I use in my experiment?" This review offers a practical resource to compare and contrast these technologies, guiding the investigator when and where to use this fantastic array of powerful tools.},
    Author = {Boettcher, Michael and McManus, Michael T},
    Date-Added = {2016-11-08 23:10:07 +0000},
    Date-Modified = {2019-10-13 15:00:32 -0700},
    Doi = {10.1016/j.molcel.2015.04.028},
    Journal = {Mol Cell},
    Journal-Full = {Molecular cell},
    Mesh = {Animals; Biomedical Research; Biotechnology; CRISPR-Cas Systems; Deoxyribonucleases; Genetic Engineering; Humans; Models, Genetic; RNA Interference},
    Month = {May},
    Number = {4},
    Pages = {575-85},
    Pmc = {PMC4441801},
    Pmid = {26000843},
    Pst = {ppublish},
    Title = {Choosing the right tool for the job: {RNAi}, {TALEN}, or {CRISPR}},
    Volume = {58},
    Year = {2015},
    Bdsk-Url-1 = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.molcel.2015.04.028}}

  • 1
    Can you show the contents of your bib file (the 3 references)? – hesham Jun 14 '20 at 1:31
  • Of course, @hesham. I should have done that in the first place... – Bob Jun 14 '20 at 2:22

(As no place for this as a comment)

Your code with the supplied bib file seems to compile fine with me. "Mohr et al. 2014" is rendered as you intended

enter image description here


After some checkings, it looks like you typed mincitenames=2 by mistake (which is not shown in your provided code example). As a result in that case the output would be the same as you've shown in your provided picture (which you actually don't want)

enter image description here

So make sure you keep mincitenames=1 as you showed in your example to get the result compiled as you want.

  • Many thanks for looking @hesham! I've examined my file very carefully and double checked that mincitenames=1, but still keep getting the problem described in my question. Since the file works with you, perhaps the problem is something local to my computer. – Bob Jun 14 '20 at 5:45
  • I am using TeXShop, BibDesk on a Mac. Compiling using shell commands (pdflatex, biber, 2 * pdflatex) gave the same results though. – Bob Jun 14 '20 at 5:55
  • Try clearing all the cash files (aux, logs, etc..) before you recompile. – hesham Jun 14 '20 at 6:27
  • 1
    Yes, that's pretty much it. BibTeX only supports a limited subset of biblatex's features and it always behaves like uniquename=false, uniquelist=false. The uniquename and uniquelist features only work with Biber. But there was a bug in Biber 2.13, which is the version used by new Overleaf projects, that would essentially force uniquelist=false if uniquename=false was set (github.com/plk/biblatex/issues/924). This issue has been resolved in Biber 2.14 (see the link). ... – moewe Jun 15 '20 at 7:56
  • 1
    ... So if you run the MWE with an up-to-date system (biblatex 3.14, Biber 2.14) using Biber (as in the question) you get the output shown in the question. The correct way to stop this behaviour (i.e. biblatex using more names than mincitenames for certain entries in order to make sure the name list is unambiguous) is to use uniquelist=false, see tex.stackexchange.com/questions/69028/…. – moewe Jun 15 '20 at 7:57

In the biblatex options, uniquename=false, has to be replaced with uniquelist=false. The formatting then works correctly on my computer (Mac OS X, TeXShop, BibDesk). Some relevant information:

Distinguishing with labels a,b,... instead of another author

biblatex: "et al." also when uniquename = false

Biblatex mincitenames not respected with authoryear

  • 1
    Note that uniquename and uniquelist do very different things. So you may want to keep uniquename=false, if you don't want given names or given name initials in citations for disambiguation (tex.stackexchange.com/q/134535/35864). – moewe Jun 14 '20 at 11:06
  • Thanks very much for info, @moewe! Any thoughts on why having uniquename=false without uniquelist=false appears to behave differently on different computers? – Bob Jun 14 '20 at 17:22
  • The only uniquename/uniquelist-related bug I can think of is this bug (github.com/plk/biblatex/issues/924) that was fixed in v3.14 of biblatex (not sure when it first surfaced). Other than that the problem with reproducability is usually that unqiuelist/uniquename are dependent on the entries cited in a document. I don't know what hesham did, but the output you show in the question is definitely the expected output of the MWE. And the correct way to force maxcitenames is uniquelist=false (independent of what uniquename does). – moewe Jun 14 '20 at 19:57
  • Thanks @moewe! FWIW, there is no doubt that the output I showed in question changed in Overleaf to agree with what @hesham obtained, even though I used the exact same code employed in the question. Perhaps Overleaf uses BibTeX instead of Biber, as you suggested? – Bob Jun 14 '20 at 21:23
  • 1
    Ah yes, on Overleaf they are still running Biber 2.13, which has the bug I mentioned github.com/plk/biblatex/issues/924. (uniquelist=true will only work if uniquename=true. Since you set uniquename=false you effectively also disabled uniquelist without explicitly requesting that.) This was a bug. The correct way to stop the name list from growing beyond maxcitenames is uniquelist=false. uniquename=false stops initials or the given name from appearing in citations. – moewe Jun 15 '20 at 3:24

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