Is writing Author A & Author B the same as writing Author A, Author B in the author list?

To make it clear, this question asks about formulating the author list in the author section when publishing a paper.

The field is computer science. Is there a way to signify that Author A is the first author?

  • Why do you think there is a "first author" rather than a true collaboration? – Buffy Apr 15 at 15:04
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    If authorship order matters in your subfield (as opposed to having alphabetical as the default), most likely Author A will be interpreted as the first author unless explicitly specified otherwise (e.g., using a footnote to indicate that first authorship is shared). – GoodDeeds Apr 15 at 16:34

The ampersand and the comma mean essentially the same thing here. The one who is listed first is the first author. (In this case, Author A is the first author in both cases.)

Clarification: The definition of "first author" that I am familiar with is the author who is listed first. In any list, there is always a first item; therefore, there is always one (and only one) first author. I am not familiar with using the term "first author" to mean "the one with the most significant contribution."

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    Mostly in CS we are happy with alphabetical listings. – Buffy Apr 15 at 15:03
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    @Buffy In theoretical CS only, I think? – Islam El-Rougy Apr 15 at 15:15
  • @IslamEl-Rougy, not only, actually, but maybe not universally either. – Buffy Apr 15 at 15:17
  • I think you are making an assumption that the authors do not intend. Ask them. Otherwise you may be making an error as well as an assumption. – Buffy Apr 15 at 15:57
  • The list of authors involves me in this case. – user2679290 Apr 15 at 16:11

Is writing Author A & Author B the same as writing Author A, Author B in the author list? (when publishing a paper)

You don't have a choice, the journal's style guide will do it for you. In cases where there is a list and not a block (or otherwise separated), an ampersand will be used for the last author in every case I'm aware of.

Original answer

In citation formats I'm familiar with (e.g. APA), using a comma with only two authors is never correct.

In other words, Author A., Author B. (2020) looks like a mistake, as if the third author (who would be separated by an &) were missing.

It makes no difference with regards to who is the "first" author.

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  • Citation is not what the question is about, but it is a nice addition. – user2679290 Apr 15 at 15:54
  • @user2679290 Oh, did you mean writing it that way in the references? My point would hold, it would still look like an error. – Azor Ahai -- he him Apr 15 at 16:02
  • No, I meant writing like this in the author section of a paper. – user2679290 Apr 15 at 16:07
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    @user2679290 Oh I see. You don't have a choice, it follows the journal's guidelines in any case (some don't have lists, and use blocks, where your question would be nonsensical). – Azor Ahai -- he him Apr 15 at 16:08

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