Opinionated Tips on Editing BibTeX Files

1. Type of BibTeX entry

Usually, it is article or book. However, many other options are available, such as phdthesis for a Ph.D. thesis, inproceedings for an article in a conference proceeding, and manual for technical documentation. We should always check whether the type of BibTeX entry is correct at first.

2. Format of author or editor names

Each name consists of possible four components:

  • First name (including middle names if any)
  • von (de la or van der, etc.)
  • Last name (surname excluding von)
  • Jr (Junior)

BibTeX recognizes each name in one of the following formats:

  • First von Last
  • von Last, First
  • von Last, Junior, First

Names are recognized by the delimiter word and.

In addition, it would be necessary to split acronyms of the first name and the middle name by white space to help BibTeX to distinguish them. For example, Foo, B.C. should be revised to Foo, B. C..

3. Capitalization of titles

We should always capitalize titles and let the bibliography style do its job for the output. Generally, we do not capitalize:

  • Articles: a, an, the
  • Coordinating Conjunctions: and, but, or, for, nor, etc.
  • Prepositions fewer than five letters: on, at, to, from, by, etc.

However, any word after colon should be capitalized and protected by {} in title.

4. Two dashes between page numbers

For example, we should have pages = {397–405} (two dashes in bewteen) instead of pages = {397-405} (only one dash in between) in pages field.

5. Protect special words

We should protect some special words from the bibliography style. For instance, for names such as Bayesian, Markov, Gaussion, and Poisson, their initials should always be protected by {} and typed as {B}ayesian, {M}arkov, {G}aussian, and {P}oisson. While the whole word MCMC should be protected completely as {MCMC}.


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