When inserting a reference in a LaTeX document (using Auctex) I normally type:


where "\cite" shows up in blue font, while "joebob_2010" shows up reddish/purple. I like this coloring. However, when I use


all text shows up white.

In my .emacs file I put:

(add-hook 'LaTeX-mode-hook
    (lambda ()
      (font-lock-add-keywords nil   '(("\\(\\\\citep\\)\\s-*{" 1 font-lock-keyword-face t)))
      (font-lock-add-keywords nil   '(("\\(\\\\citet\\)\\s-*{" 1 font-lock-keyword-face t)))

This changed the color of "\citep" to blue, but the reference to "joebob_2010" remains white. Can I modify this to have the same coloring as "\cite{joebob_2010}"?


I posted a bug report to the gnu group for Auctex and found out there was no bug after all. The following solution works. In the .emacs file, put:

;; set special font highlighting for \cite* commands
(add-hook 'LaTeX-mode-hook
     (lambda ()
       (font-lock-add-keywords nil  '(("\\(\\\\citep\\)\\s-*{" 1 font-lock-keyword-face t)))
       (font-lock-add-keywords nil  '(("\\(\\\\citet\\)\\s-*{" 1 font-lock-keyword-face t)))
       (font-latex-add-keywords '(("citep" "*[[{")) 'reference)
       (font-latex-add-keywords '(("citet" "*[[{")) 'reference)

Adding the keywords at the end is the key.

  • Replace your code with (setq TeX-parse-self t)in your init file and restart Emacs. Auctex should then load the relevant style (natbib.el or biblatex.el) and fontify the macros respectively. Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 4:20
  • Thanks, but that did not work. Using this solution not even the "\citep" is colored. I searched around and was able to find the natbib.el file, but not the bitlatex.el. Would you suggest that some configuration needs changed?
    – tnknepp
    Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 12:59
  • Which AUCTeX version are you using? I suggest you update to latest version and check that biblatex.el is in a path mentioned in TeX-style-path variable. The easiest way is to use elpa to update AUCTeX. Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 19:01
  • Strange. I am running 11.89.5 and my biblatex.el file is in the TeX-style-path. If you have any more suggestions I would love to hear them, but, since this is an aesthetics issue I can just let it go for now...though it will continue to bug me.
    – tnknepp
    Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 19:51
  • My last bet is that you open your file and hit C-c C-n. You are missing a lot of features provided by that style; you should get it running. Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 20:20

1 Answer 1


You can find the solution in the manual ((info "(auctex)Fontification of macros")):

Highlighting of macros can be customized by adapting keyword lists which can be found in the customization group font-latex-keywords.

Thus you have to issue M-x customize-group RET font-latex-keywords RET and then add to the "Font Latex Match Reference Keywords" variable the new entry with citep as "keyword" field and *[[{ as "format" field.

In alternative, you can add the following lines to your init file:

 (lambda ()
   (font-latex-add-keywords '(("citep" "*[[{")) 'reference)
   (font-latex-add-keywords '(("citet" "*[[{")) 'reference)))

Cross-reference: https://debbugs.gnu.org/cgi/bugreport.cgi?bug=24667


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