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I would like to change my figure's width to a precentage of my \textwidth:

\textwidth /2 would scale to 50% of the \textwidth.

What is the proper syntax (if any) to do this ?

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up vote 71 down vote accepted

In some cases \linewidth instead of \textwidth may be the better option. For example will it be the same as \textwidth in a single column document, but the same as \columnwidth in a two column document. \linewidth may also change in list environments, becoming smaller in nested lists.

As commented by Christian Lindig, see Difference between \textwidth, \linewidth and \hsize for a discussion of this.

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See also the difference between \textwidth, \linewidth and \hsize. For these reasons you should use \linewidth because it works inside columns and minipages. – Christian Lindig Dec 10 '11 at 12:00
If used as-is, just remove the paragraph indentation to avoid a \parindent horizontal shift. I wouldn't change your MWE though, since the OP's usage may not require it (for example, within a figure environment). – Werner Dec 10 '11 at 15:34

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