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What's the correct way to typeset the following to get the normal spacing you would expect were you to, for example, write the terms out by hand.


\[ \left( \prod_{i=1}^m X_i \right)^n \]
\[ O\left(\frac{1}{n}\right) \]

In the first case the space to the exponent 'n' is too large. In the latter case the space between the 'O' and the open bracket is too large.

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I don't think the spacing looks that bad actually... You could manually adjust the spacing by adding a negative hspace. \[ O\hspace*{-.25em}\left(\frac{1}{n}\right) \] and the same for the exponent. –  Roelof Spijker Oct 12 '11 at 10:09
Regarding the space between the 'O' and the '(', this is discussed at great length in Spacing around \left and \right. –  Hendrik Vogt Jun 27 '12 at 19:45

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

There are a number of ways to address spacing issues. In the first example you give, reproduced in the first gather* line in the code below, both the right large parenthesis and the exponent n indeed seem to be spaced too loosely.

Inserting a "negative thinspace", \!, before each of these two items (line 2) does eliminate the earlier looseness. Unfortunately, the overall expression now looks a bit cramped. In my view, the real culprits for making the expression in line 1 look unsatisfactory are (i) the near-collision between the opening (left) parenthesis and the subscript term below the product symbol and (ii) parentheses that are too tall relative to what they contain; see pp. 148-9 of the TeXbook for an explanation of this second point. In line 3 below, I therefore (a) insert a positive thinspace, \, after the opening parenthesis and (b) use \biggl and \biggr parentheses, as they are slightly smaller (and also a tiny bit less wide!) than those produced by \left( and \right). I think the result now looks both balanced and neither too loose nor too tight. :-)

The second example you provide is affected by the automatic additional spacing that's inserted when TeX creates \left- and \right parentheses. Switching to \biggl and \biggr parentheses, as in line 4 below, eliminates this excess space. If you do not wish to give up the convenience of automatic sizing of parentheses generated by \left-\right pairs, you could instead insert a negative thinspace, \!, between the O and the \left(.

\begin {gather*}
 \left( \prod_{i=1}^m X_i \right)^n  \\       %% "line 1"
\intertext{less space on \emph{right}:}
 \left( \prod_{i=1}^m X_i \!\right)^{\!n} \\  %% "line 2"
\intertext{more space on \emph{left}, biggl-biggr parens:}
 \biggl(\,\prod_{i=1}^m X_i\biggr)^n \\       %% "line 3"
\intertext{Left-right vs.\ biggl-biggr parentheses}
 O\left(\frac{1}{n}\right) \qquad O\biggl(\frac{1}{n}\biggr)  %% "line 4"

enter image description here

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That's really great. Thanks. –  Raphael Oct 12 '11 at 11:17
Accepted. However the O{\left(\frac{1}{n}\right)} answer below is surprising, simple and elegant. –  Raphael Oct 18 '11 at 14:55

use it this way:


\[ \left( \prod_{i=1}^m X_i \right)^{\mkern-5mu n} \]
\[ O{\left(\frac{1}{n}\right)} \]

with {...} you do not get the delimiterspace. The exponent is correct but you can use \mkern to get it nearer to the parenthesis

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@Herbet, That's really great, thanks. I have to ask, where is the {...} feature that you then don't get the delimiterspace documented? –  Raphael Oct 12 '11 at 10:35
@Raphael Clifford: in the TeXbook, everything in math in {...} is like a so called math atom. See also mirror.ctan.org/info/math/voss/mathmode/Mathmode.pdf –  Herbert Oct 12 '11 at 10:38
That's an amazing document. Thanks again. –  Raphael Oct 12 '11 at 10:45

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