Update on September 3rd, 2018

I’ve added the citation style to github. There is a stable link from my (rejected) pull request to add the style to the zotero repository: link. Another option is a github gist: link.

Original post

When I am writing a proposal to fund my research, there is often a page or word limit to keep. One of the tricks to stretch this limit is to minimize the references to their bare bones. I used to take an already short reference style, such as the one of Nature or Science, but I still had to trim these reference lists down manually. And for obvious reasons I had enough of that.

So I looked for a minimal style… but I could not find one. Thus I created my own style in Mendeley that generates a bare minimal reference list. It is a CSL (Citation Style Language) file and you can download it here or via a Mendeley-friendly link here. I have since moved to Zotero, where the citation style works flawlessly as well.

The reference list should look as in the screenshot below: only one author, no article title, short journal or publisher name, volume/page numbers, and the year of publication.

Minimal references style

I have not found a way to control paragraph style and font format from the CSL file. So to get rid of paragraph breaks and to select a small font size (8–10pt), I have to do some post-processing. Unfortunately, the Mendeley plugin for LibreOffice resets any changes to the bibliography as soon as it refreshes, so the following steps are best left till the end. My solution is to select the Bibliography box and apply a Find and Replace to the paragraph breaks ($) substituting each of them for a single space ( ). Note: to select paragraph breaks one needs to tick the Regular expressions checkbox under Other options.

After that, my minimal citation style looks like this:

Final reference section


  1. antonc

    Hi Mat, you’ll need to adjust the citation style to switch from numbers to author-date mode 😉 Should not be too difficult!

  2. Matthew

    Amazing, great job, thank you so much.
    Is it possible to switch citation style from numbers to Author-Date mode.

  3. antonc

    (Replying to Gus) Thanks for your feedback. I’ll look into nr 1, because that should work. I’m in doubt if I want to remove initials..

  4. Gus

    Very appreciated, thank you very much. Constructive feedback:
    1- The journal abbreviations do not work (mostly)
    2- You are still included the authors’ initials, which takes a lot of space.


  5. antonc

    They only accept official citation styles (e.g. from journals/conferences), and arguably there is no such thing as an official minimal one.

  6. David McAllister

    Why was your pull request rejected? It seems like a very useful addition.

  7. JMK

    I love you! Thank you so much! I was brooding over how to fit my reference list onto a poster for a conference, because the very important discussion had not much space left (too much space for results section due to fMRI images).

  8. Daniel Brewer

    Many thanks for this, it saved loads of space. On MS word in the search and replace put “^p” in the find box and ” ” in the replace box.

  9. R. Riley

    Thanks so much for this!

    For those of you who are using Zotero, you can add the style like this:
    (1) Right click on the zotero repository _link_ mentioned at the beginning of the article. Select “Save link as…” and save the CSL file.
    (2) In Zotero, go to Edit > Preferences > Cite > Styles. Click the plus button the right of “Get additional styles…” and select the CSL file you downloaded.
    After that, you should be able to produce bibliographies in the minimal style.

  10. MayaP

    Thank you so much! Took me a while to figure out how to get it into Zotero, but now that I have, it works beautifully!

  11. antonc

    Hi Veronika,

    I never uploaded it to the Zotero repo. I might do so in the (near)future, if I manage to find some time.


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