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I have some section headings occupying two lines and I'm not satisfied with the way XeLaTeX breaks the heading. If I manually add \\ the output looks fine, but I get the following warning:

[hyperref] Token not allowed in a PDF string (PDFDocEncoding): removing `\\'. 

My code looks like that:

\section{this is a very long title I \\ want to break manually}

Is there a way to have a line-break there without the warning?

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You could use \texorpdfstring within the \section argument. – Stefan Kottwitz Mar 21 '11 at 20:38
The warning is telling you that the bookmark created by hyperref is not goin to have a line break in it. – Matthew Leingang Mar 21 '11 at 20:40
up vote 28 down vote accepted

Use \texorpdfstring; the first argument can contain (La)TeX code and the second one (text only), will be used for the bookmarks:

\section[this is a very long title I want to break manually]{\texorpdfstring{this is a very long title I\\ want to break manually}{this is a very long title I want to break manually}}

If a ToC is to be produced and the break line is not desired there, a better option is to to use the optional argument of \section (this will be used for the headers, the ToC and the bookmarks):

\section[this is a very long title I want to break manually]{this is a very long title I\\ want to break manually}
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Using the optional argument of the \section command should be enough to suppress the warning. It is a good idea to do this anyway, as Gonzalo mentions, to avoid the line break in the printed table of contents, if you have one. – Nathan Grigg Sep 23 '11 at 18:08

Just using \\ in the .tex file is enough to break the line in the heading when compiling to dvi file. But when compiling to pdf, the line breaks also in the table of contents and it looks strange. Thus, the best solution I found was converting dvi to pdf directly.

*\section{this is a very long title \\ I want to break manually}*
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Welcome to TeX.sx! A tip: If you indent lines by 4 spaces or enclose words in backticks `, they'll be marked as code, as can be seen in my edit. You can also highlight the code and click the "code" button (with "{}" on it). – doncherry Oct 14 '12 at 0:10
Although you're right about compiling the file with latex (the different behavior is probably due to the different drivers loaded by hyperref), the OP mentioned the usage of xelatex, which produces PDF directly. – henrique Oct 14 '12 at 0:50

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