Diacriticals in Zotero and Bibtex

January 18, 2011 at 5:22 am 5 comments

| Gabriel |

I collect citations in Zotero (which is great for scraping citations from worldcat, jstor, etc.) but because I use Lyx rather than Word, I actually use citations in Bibtex. Unfortunately this creates some problems with diacriticals (aka, accent marks). I had been temporarily solving this by simplifying the offending characters to be plain ASCII characters but I figured out that I can solve things by hand-editing the Bibtex files.

For instance, consider these citations:

Dávila, Arlene. 2001. Latinos, Inc.: The Marketing and Making of a People. Berkeley CA: University of California Press.

Denrell, Jerker, and Balázs Kovács. 2008. “Selective Sampling of Empirical Settings in Organizational Studies.” Administrative Science Quarterly 53:109-144.

Zotero can handle both of them natively, but when you export to Bibtex the author fields appear like this:

	author = {Arlene Da ́vila},
	author = {Jerker Denrell and Balázs Kovács},

In the case of Kovács the diacriticals are already applied to the vowels and in the case of Dávila the diacritical mark is after the vowel instead of before and isn’t backslashed. If you render this, “Da ́vila” crashes LaTeX and “Kovács” renders but looks like comic strip profanity rather than “Kovács.”

The best solution is to handle entries with diacriticals in a hand-edited Bibtex file. In particular, the two entries should look like this:

	author = {Arlene D\'avila},
	author = {Jerker Denrell and Bal\'azs Kov\'acs},

It renders beautifully and you don’t have to insult speakers of Spanish or Magyar by dropping the diacriticals.

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  • 1. Rense  |  January 18, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    When I was still using Endnote, I used to handle this with a Vim script that that replaced all diacriticals with the appropriate LaTeX code; just needed to run it every once in a while on the Bibtex file. Lately I switched to JabRef, which means that I’m importing most citations in the Bibtex format anyway.

  • 2. Kieran  |  January 18, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    Bibtex is moving towards proper support for this stuff — or rather, Biblatex + Biber is probably going to replace bibtex in the medium term. See http://www.ctan.org/tex-archive/macros/latex/exptl/biblatex/doc/biblatex.pdf for some details.

    • 3. gabrielrossman  |  January 18, 2011 at 3:06 pm

      in this particular case bibtex works fine (or at least there’s an easy work-around to its limitations).

      on the other hand, i am looking forward to biblatex + biber being more fully developed/supported because i’ve seen the beautiful things you do with it. for instance, as i’ve told you i’m impressed by how your documents feature ASA-conforming in-line cites like (Gibbons 1776) rather than the nat-bib style of (Gibbons, 1776).

  • 4. Kieran  |  January 19, 2011 at 10:31 am

    Yeah, what I meant was that while Bibtex works fine (and my bib files are full of citations with the kind of markup you show here), and biblatex works with bibtex too, the native utf-8 (or whatever it is) support for international characters in biber etc will be nice once it arrives as part of the standard latex setup. According to the biblatex manual a subtle issue with having to do it the bibtex way is that it breaks alphabetic sorting of those entries if the accented character is the first one in the name.

  • 5. Avram Lyon  |  March 3, 2011 at 2:54 am

    You can also have Zotero export non-UTF-8 BibTeX, in which case it will replace all these characters with the appropriate BibTeX entities; there’s a huge replacement table inside the BibTeX translator that deals with these on import and export.

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