Sunday, July 01, 2007

A reflection on (Springer) bibliographies (junior-part commas)...

In my previous post about Springer journal typesetting, I present the BiBTeX bibliography style files spmpsci.bst and spmpscinat.bst that were mostly generated by the docstrip driver files spmpsci.dbj and spmpscinat.dbj, respectively. I say mostly because I discovered that the original bibliography style files distributed by Springer were generated by docstrip but then manually hacked to remove the comma before the junior part (e.g., "Joe Public, Jr.") of the author and editor names.

You see, there is no way to use docstrip drivers based on merlin.mbs (from custom-bib) to have commas between author names and yet no commas before junior parts. Springer actually used the merlin.mbs option nm-rvv to get rid of commas and then hacked in between-author commas. I used the nm-rvvc option to include between-author commas and then hacked out the junior-part commas. The result is the same.

I have no problem listing author names without junior parts. As I mention in a Google groups thread, on page 3 of The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, it is stated that the "Jr." after a last name should not have a comma before it (e.g., William Strunk Jr.). A number of journals agree with this, including The Journal of Mathematical Biology (i.e., a Springer journal using the Springer spmpscinat BiBTeX bibliography style).

At first I completely agreed with Springer and thought that merlin.mbs needed to be updated so that it had a junior part comma option. However, I gave it more thought and now I think that Springer should cease and desist. For one, this makes it difficult to regenerate the BST file from the DBJ driver options. The BST file distributed by Springer doesn't even mention that some manual editing has gone on, so anyone trying to generate their BST file will probably miss this hack. Second, while I think that authors who insert commas in their names need to stop this practice, if an author chooses to make his or her professional name comma-delimited, then journals should respect that author's wishes. Finally, if the BST junior-part comma is left in, commas can still be omitted by surrounding the junior (e.g., "Jr.") and the last name (e.g., "Smith") with curly braces (e.g., "{Smith Jr.}") in the BIB file. I haven't tested this, but I think that if this is done the Jr. becomes part of the BiBTeX last name (e.g., "{ll}") and thus there will be no comma before the junior in the resulting bibliography.

I'm sure Springer would tell me that they just want the bibliography entries to be consistent. However, names are messy things to mess with. Plus, modern-day BST files really should be specified entirely by a set of standard docstrip options (i.e., docstrip options and an MBS file). If non-standard options are really needed, a new MBS file should be distributed and the BST file should be spcified by options for that new MBS file. Would that be so hard to do for a publisher?

So that's my thought... Hey, publishers! Leave them BST files alone!

No comments: