Bibliography order

I need my bibliography sorted by one author, two authors alphabetically, then three or more authors by year, e.g.

Smith, T. 1990

Smith, T. 1991

Smith, T. and Baker, B. 1996

Smith, T,  and Jones, J. 1994

Smith, T. and Taylor, R. 1992

Smith, T., Baker, B., David, F., and Taylor, R. 1998

Smith, T., Young, W., and Taylor, R. 1999

Smith, T., Davis, F., and Taylor, R. 2002

That is, when someone comes across Smith and Baker it’s before Smith and Jones but when they see Taylor et al. 2002 the bibliography is in order by date, since they don’t know who the second author is to search alphabetically. I have a document with multiple citations by the same authors. I don’t want it sorted by three authors, four authors, etc., but by date one there are three or more.I can sort it manually at the end, but would rather not… Thanks for any help!

That really just makes my head hurt!  Sorry. It is times like these, I am glad I am not an Endnote developer!

While EndNote’s bibliography sorting options does allow for sorting by First Author and #s of Authors, there doesn’t appear to be an option for isolating the second author to define a sort parameter as you’ve described. 

If this feature is needed for a particular style, journal, or is accepted practice in your field, you might consider submitting this as a product suggestion.

This is an addendum to my prior posting as there may be a solution. Experimenting yielded a torturous workaround that involves modifying the reference templates, records with two authors, and the bibliography sort order.  The steps are as follows:


  1. In order to enable sorting on the second author’s name, the second author needs to be “isolated” as a separate field. So modify the reference templates.

  2. Each template will be modified to  have a “Secondary Author” field.  (Note: if you are using the Secondary Author field for other references you could opt to use a Custom field instead. This example uses the Secondary Author field.) Close and save the modifications.

  3. Now open each reference having only two authors and copy the name of the second author into the Secondary Author field.


  1. Create a custom “Other” bibliography sort order by clicking the pulldown menus to select: First Author, Secondary Author, then Year.

  2. Close and save the output style (this example uses the MLA style).  Since the file will be saved as a Copy you’ll need to adjust the settings in both EndNote and MS Word to use the style copy.


As illustrated, entries with two authors is sorted by the first then second (secondary) author name.  More than 2 authors is sorted by first author then year (as the secondary author field is blank).  Note that the two-author entries while grouped together are listed below the 3-or-more author groups so for the final document suggest cutting and pasting the group.

Oddly enough, that is the way the sorting is “supposed” to happen when the full list of authors is truncated within in-text citations. Despite this, many journal styles don’t seem to be aware of it, and just file everything alphabetically regardless. Satisfactory, I guess, if the reference list is reasonably short, as often with journal articles.

The reason for sorting the “et al” entries is well explained in the original post by jc42 in the thread.



Thank you so much!