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This might be a little OT, but I'm curious about this: in the TeXbook the excercises 4.1 and 4.2 mention the italic correction needed in some cases. One such case is:

{\it f\/}

Since TeX is only interested in the bounding boxes for fonts it naturally cannot know which fonts have italic correction in their shapes. But as TeX is all about clean separation of content from the presentation, why am I required to do such manual typographical adjustments when using fonts such as Computer Modern?

Shouldn't TeX do the adjustment automatically when it meets a certain combination of (its own) fonts and characters? To me this feels like Knuth is violating his own principle of messing with manual formatting as little as possible. If I have misunderstood the need for typing \/ all the time, please enlighten me.

In any case, is it possible to automatize italic correction when \bf, \it etc. clash?

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Where did Knuth said that he was separating content from presentation? He just wanted to produce a typographical engine with a bias for maths. LaTeX does this automatically though. –  Chuang May 28 '11 at 16:53
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As to your last question: LaTeX's \textit has italic correction built in. –  Seamus May 28 '11 at 17:07
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I don't know about Knuth's motive for not including italic correction although maybe it was just difficult to do automatically. It's all very well having principles, but sometimes breaking the rules makes things easier.

As to automatic italic correction: LaTeX's \textit does automatically add it.

I wonder if it is easier this way since the italic correction is added after the argument of a macro, rather than just after then end of a group (as it would have to be in {\it text}...

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