Easier way to deal with references with author's last name and initial (APA)

It would be great if there was a better way to deal with the issue of having an author’s initial being included in the in text citation. I know why this happens (APA wants you to add the first initial if the first authors of different papers have the same last name). However, occasionally this happens because the author had their middle name included in one reference and not the other, or one reference uses an initial and the other the author’s actual name (in one it is Smith, J. and the other is Smith, John). I also know the solution (going through and editing the authors name to make sure every paper is the same). However, this is not a great solution - it is time consuming and finicky. Sometimes it is hard to figure out where the problem is (one uses a full name and the other an initial, but in Paperpile only the initials are given, so it is often hard to figure out which one needs to be changed). Even when you do know it takes a long time to change and sometimes the changes are not reflected in the document (often after I have fixed the problem on Paperpile even when I click update citations the problem persists in the document). It would be great if there was a way to easily edit authors, or a checkbox (or a sub-style) that lets you not use the 1st initial. This is a problem that happens on almost every paper I write and some way to reduce the friction of doing this would be great.

1 Like

+1 for me. I know the answer is to edit the references myself but this is supposed to automate the process.

This situation will be improved by the ability to edit reference metadata in bulk from the library (enabling one to modify author names on several records simultaneously), which will be part of upcoming renovations for the webapp. This was originally scheduled to be running by the end of this year but is now expected for early 2023.

Hello Vicente,

Thanks for your reply to this request. That wold be a welcome change. Just one question, when you say you can change the authors’ names on multiple papers simultaneously, does this mean that all the authors on all the papers need to match? The one issue that I can see with using this approach is that the majority of the papers that I have this issue with have multiple authors, which are not the same across papers. I want to change only the first author on all the papers to match - as the other authors are different it won’t help to bulk edit if that changes all the names in the author field. For example:

Paper 1: Smith, J.; Jones, A.
Paper 2: Smith, Jane; Brown, S.
Paper 3: Smith, J. L.; Potter, H.

What I would like is to change all the first authors names to Smith, Jane without having the other names change. Do you know if that will be possible?


@gavinbrooks the team confirms this won’t be possible yet. We can bulk edit multiple pubs so what is written in the Author field is applied to all selected papers. For the case you describe, the first author could only be changed if all other papers have the same second and third authors, for example:

  • smith, J.; Jones A
  • Smith, Jane; Jones A
  • Smith, J.L; Jones A

That way the desired author combination can be set and will be applied to all the papers selected.

Hello Vicente,

Thanks for getting back to me.

Unfortunately, for the field that I am writing in the papers with multiple authors almost never have exactly the same authors in exactly the same order. While bulk editing will be useful for other things, it will probably not help me solve this specific problem.