Can someone please explain in a clear and concise way how am I supposed to enter the names of authors in a BibTeX file? I have entries with something like

   author = {Juan A. Navarro P\'erez, Ra\'ul de la Garza and Andr\'es Espinoza},

but somehow the output seems kind of wrong!

  • 2
    Comments below suggest First Last or Last, First are both OK, and seem to prefer First Last. I haven't found a definitive source, but I think Last, First is preferred, since it contains additional information (the comma as a delimiter). Certain 3rd party tools (RefTeX) understand Last, First but not First Last.
    – mankoff
    Apr 27, 2014 at 16:40

4 Answers 4


I think things are just a bit more complicated than in @Joseph's answer. (Though in laying them out, I may violate the desire for a "concise" answer.)

My go to reference for details of the BibTeX format is Norman Walsh's page which self describes as:

This help entry contains the same information as Appendix B of the LaTeX manual.

In BibTeX's world view, a name has four components:

1) First name (which includes any middle names provided)

2) von ("de la" or "van der" like components)

3) Last (Surname without the von part)

4) Jr (Things like "Jr.", "III", etc)

The page explains:

you may type a name in one of three forms:

"First von Last" "von Last, First" "von Last, Jr, First"

You may almost always use the first form; you shouldn't if either there's a Jr part or the Last part has multiple tokens but there's no von part.

You can enclose components in braces to overcome BibTeX's identification of named components. Say, implausibly enough, that toni morrison were to wed someone named Jones and thus adopt the name 'toni morrison Jones'. You could render this '{t}oni {{m}orrison Jones}' with the braces around the 't' and 'm' to prevent a bibliographic style from altering the capitalization and the braces around 'morrison Jones' to force BibTeX to identify the entire string as the Last component, rather than treating `morrison' as the von part.

Finally, you can use braces if 'and' or a coma are part of the name. In the example on the page:

"{Barnes and Noble, Inc.}"

  • 2
    I'd forgotten about the 'Jr' part, but you are of course correct.
    – Joseph Wright
    Jul 29, 2010 at 13:07
  • 7
    vanden, as this has become a popular answer to a popular question, might you care do edit and polish your answer to merge and include some other details from @joseph's answer (i.e. names have to be separated by "and") Mar 25, 2012 at 11:39
  • Just a note for names that include "the second", "the third", "the fourth" - the correct entry would be e.g. author = {Surname, IV, Name}, for "Name Surname IV".
    – sdaau
    May 3, 2014 at 10:03

Two things to remember. First, each name must be separated by 'and', as this is what BibTeX looks for to separate them out. (It has to be 'and' in English, I'm afraid.) Second, BibTeX can understand different parts of a name if you give it as 'Surname, Firstname', i.e. with the surname first. So for your example I would have

  author = {Navarro P\'erez, Juan A. and de la Garza, Ra\'ul  and 
    Espinoza, Andr\'es},

Notice that BibTeX can detect a 'von' part (which includes the 'de la' here), if it is in the surname section but starts with a lower case letter.


To add to the accepted answer (in lieu of commenting, which requires more reputation): http://maverick.inria.fr/~Xavier.Decoret/resources/xdkbibtex/bibtex_summary.html#names provides a clear overview of how to enter names in various ways and get BibTex to recognise the Firstname, Von, LastName and Jr parts.

For ease: use "von Lastname, Jr, Firstname" with the "von" part starting lowercase and the first- and last names upper case.

Secondly, between two authors, do not use commas, but use the word "and". So

author = {von Lastname, Jr, Firstname and 
          di Lastname2, Firstname2 and
          Lastname3, Firstname3}

for multiple authors


Unfortunately, exact information about BibTeX's name parsing appears to be scarce.

The LaTeX book (which is not freely available as far as I am aware) explains the most important basics in appendix B.1.2. The freely available btxdoc/BibTeXing/"Using BibTeX", item 18 (pp. 15-16) (on CTAN as additional BibTeX documentation https://ctan.org/pkg/bibtex) slightly expands on the discussion in the LaTeX book (but doesn't repeat the "obvious" bits).

BibTeX's name handling is based on conventions common in Western culture. That's how we need to understand the LaTeX book's

Most names can be entered in the obvious way, either with or without a comma [...].

John Paul Jones
Jones, John Paul
Ludwig van Beethoven
van Beethoven, Ludwig

Formally, for BibTeX a single name can consist of up to four parts

  1. First (the given name)
  2. von (lowercase bits like "von", "van", "de", "de la", ...)
  3. Last (the family name)
  4. Jr. (generational title/suffix)

Here the first name includes all middle names. BibTeX has no standard way of dealing with middle names separately.

The von part is usually (considered) part of the family name, but may sometimes be ignored for sorting purposes. Presumably that's why BibTeX needs to treat it separately from the last name.

BibTeX will always attempt to make the last name the name part. That means that if you have a name consisting of only one part, it will be interpreted as being the last name.

btxdoc explains that a name consisting of these parts can be given in the following ways

First von Last
von Last, First
von Last, Jr, First

Looking at the code comments in https://tug.org/texmf-docs/bibtex/bibtex.web here's a rundown of how names are parsed. I will omit some technicalities.

If the name contains at least one comma (i.e. is of the form von Last, First or von Last, Jr., First) the First name is everything from the last comma in the name up to the end. In this case the von part (which may well be empty) starts at the beginning of the string.

If there are no commas (i.e. First von Last), the First name is everything from the start up to the von part. In this case the von part starts at the first non-last word that starts with a lowercase letter.

The von part can only contain lowercase words. If there is no lowercase word where the von part would start, the von part is empty.

In both cases (commas or no commas) the von part ends when the last name starts. For the following bit we can imagine that a comma is added to the end of the string if it contains no comma (so that the First von Last form becomes First von Last,). The Last name starts after the last word before the first comma in the string that starts with a lowercase letter. (If this would leave the Last name empty, the last name becomes the last word before the first comma.)

If there are two commas, the junior part is the bit in between the two commas. Otherwise the junior part is empty.

  • These rules imply that the von part can contain multiple words.
  • The rules also imply that in First von Last form without a von part, i.e. First Last, only the last word is the Last name. Hence, in Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac all of Paul Adrien Maurice is the first name and only Dirac is the last name. This is an issue for Per Brinch Hansen whose last name is Brinch Hansen. Names with multi-word last names are best given in the inverted form Brinch Hansen, Per.

In most cases you can give names in First Last format, but sometimes the von Last, First (von Last, Jr., First) format is more specific and allows you to tell BibTeX which bit is First and which bit is Last name more explicitly.

The discussion above always refers to a single name. Multiple names must always be separated with and in the input.

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