In our publishment regulations, there is an instruction for citations as follows:

  • All authors should be included in reference lists unless there are 6 or more, in which case only the first 5 should be given, followed by et al. (not italicized)

I currently have a citation with 6 authors (with lastnames A, B, C, D, E, F). By using natbib & chicago as bibliography style (it's also the same with plainnat), when I cite it with citet*{paper1}, I get the following output:

"... methodology A, B, C, D, and F [26]. As ..."

which is close but not exactly what the instruction wants.

Expected output is:

"... methodology A, B, C, D, and E et al. [26]. As ..."

There are two problems here,

  1. It includes F (last author's surname) where the instruction dictates E to be used. Here, we need to explicitly put a cut-off on the 5th author, and printing 5th last-name as the last one in citation.
  2. There is no "et al." in the citation.

For the 2nd problem I can just put "et al." afterwards basically, this's a sort of work around I think of, which would yield the following,

"... methodology A, B, C, D, and F [26] et al. As ...", which would be kind of ugly.

For the 1st problem, I am not sure about how the authors should be in order for this, any suggestion for that is also appreciated.

If there are bibliography styles (afaik there is not by searching a while) supports this automatically or with a little modification, it would be great.

  • Welcome to TeX.SE. natbib is a citation management package; its use (or non-use) in a document does not influence how bib items are formatted in the bibliography. The latter is the job of the bibliography style -- either chicago or plainnat, right? Now, the publishing regulation from which you provide an excerpt appears to pertain to how bib entries should be formatted in the bibliography, not to how citation call-outs should be formatted. If you used \citet instead of \citet*, you'd get the standard "A et al (<year>)" call-out form; I wouldn't mess with it. Why use \citet*?
    – Mico
    Feb 6, 2022 at 14:59
  • Thank you @Mico. Unfortunately, there is no bst file provided from the journal, and I don't know how to create one with these rules, so that I'm trying to figure out what can be done to fit these instructions.
    – null
    Feb 6, 2022 at 15:05
  • My earlier comment does not pertain to a specific bst file. Instead, it pertains to something more fundamental: Does the requirement (viz., truncating name lists if they have than 6 items) pertain to (a) formatted items in the bibliography, (b) citation call-outs, or (c) both of the above? The actions that need to be taken to achieve this formatting requirement depend greatly on whether (a), (b), or (c) applies. Believe it or not, but case (c) is actually the easiest to handle.
    – Mico
    Feb 6, 2022 at 15:10
  • I see your point. Actually meanwhile I've been grinding the published papers from past 2 months, and actually saw that it is the case (c) applies here, where on the published paper, the author names are truncated in the bibliography, so it makes the things very easy to handle. At this ponit, the problem in the question is automatically solved, should I (i) flag as no more action required ? (ii) edit with update note ? or (iii) answer my own question ? which one do you suggest as a next step @Mico ?
    – null
    Feb 6, 2022 at 15:13
  • 1
    Please see the answer I posted a short while ago.
    – Mico
    Feb 6, 2022 at 15:32

1 Answer 1


Thanks for clarifying that the formatting requirement pertains to both the formatted items in the bibliography and to citation call-outs.

I suggest you proceed as follows:

  • Make a copy of your main bib file; if the bib file's name is (say), references.bib, call the copy something like references-trunc5.bib.

  • Open the file references-trunc5.bib in an editor; the program you use to create and edit tex files will do fine.

  • Hopefully, the bib file doesn't contain too many entries with more than 5 authors (or editors). Find these entries and replace name6 and beyond with and others. E.g., change

    author = "A and B and C and D and E and F and G and H and I and J and K"


    author = "A and B and C and D and E and others"

    Importantly, do not change anything else about the bib entries in question. In particular, don't change the citation "keys" of the entries.

  • Save the bib file in a directory that's searched by BibTeX.

  • In the main tex file, change the instruction



  • Finally, perform a complete recompile cycle -- LaTeX, BibTeX, and LaTeX twice more -- to fully propagate the changes.

Two final comments:

  1. Unless you have a very good reason to use \citet*, I think you're better off using \citet.

  2. Things would be even easier if you could use biblatex, as you wouldn't have to change the bib file. All you'd have to do is set the option maxnames=5.

A full MWE (minimum working example) and its output:

enter image description here

      author = "A and B and C and D and E and others", 
      title  = "Thoughts", 
      year = 3001

\usepackage[authoryear, round]{natbib}
\bibliographystyle{plainnat} % or some other suitable bib style

\citet*{abcdefghijk}. \citet{abcdefghijk}.

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