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I'd be much obliged if somebody could tell me how to do the following.

  • How does one typeset the symbol for inches in LaTeX? Is it "?. Neither Lamport nor Knuth seem to mention it.
  • Assuming \inchcommand is the command that produces the inch symbol, does one insert a thin space before the command: 1\,\inchcommand?
  • When you write 8.5 x 11 paper size, it is not clear the sizes are in inches. Is there a way to make the unit explicit?
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3  
How about \newcommand{\inches}{\ensuremath{{}^{\prime\prime}}} and set it without any space between the numeral and the unit? It looks aesthetically okay to me... –  Werner Feb 28 '12 at 5:49
2  
I would rather have 8.5in x 11in with a thin space between the number and the inch. But please use SI units:) This is also the reason why you cannot find it in siunitx, the package focuses on SI units. –  Yiannis Lazarides Feb 28 '12 at 5:57
    
@Yannis Good point about SI units. I should have realised. I'll remove the comment about it. –  Marc van Dongen Feb 28 '12 at 6:16
    
Isn't the symbol for inches the straight quote (2"), the other ones (“like these”) for quotations? I have read something like that in a Danish typesetting guide. –  Minustar Feb 28 '12 at 13:56

5 Answers 5

up vote 11 down vote accepted

In most style books it is recommended that you spell it out fully. If you however insist to typeset it as per the question use as follows:

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{mathpazo,amsmath}
\def\inch#1{#1''}
\def\ft#1{#1'\thinspace}
\begin{document}
    6'\thinspace30''
%or
    \ft2\inch6
\end{document}

You can use the same method for typesetting time this way as well. You can create commands to suit. Even better to typeset it straight into SI units and let TeX do the conversion.

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{mathpazo}
\usepackage{fp}
\usepackage{siunitx}
\def\inch#1{#1''}
\def\ft#1{#1'\thinspace}
\def\inchtomm#1{%
   \FPmul\result{#1}{25.4}
   \FPround{\result}{\result}{2}
   \SI{\result}{\mm}}
\begin{document}
6'\thinspace30''

\ft2\inch6

\(\inchtomm{8.5}\times\inchtomm{11}\)

%or

\(8.5\thinspace\text{in}\times 11\thinspace\text{in}\)
\end{document}

If you absolutely need to typeset it in inches, use 8.5~in or \mbox{8.5\thinspace in}. Both are acceptable ways from a typesetting point of view.

Edit

Had a look at a few guides. The image is from Science and Technical Writing, a Manual of Style, 2nd Edition by Philip Rubens. (Highly recommended)

enter image description here

The overall consensus in the context you describe is to spell it out in full words. In tables, the inches appear as a heading and the by symbol used i.e., 5 x 10

The abbreviated form in text can take a stop or be left out in.; as units in my early Engineering Books always used it as in i.e., lb/in etc.

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Thanks, but how do I typeset the letter (paper) size? I'm not familiar with the convention. –  Marc van Dongen Feb 28 '12 at 6:18
1  
@MarcvanDongen Better to write 8.5 x 11 inches. Most style guides recommend you spell it out fully. Others will accept 8.5in x 11in. –  Yiannis Lazarides Feb 28 '12 at 6:48
2  
Are you sure about the usage of quotes in your answer? The back quote seems out of place here. I'd prefer primes instead of closing quotes, but that's a matter of opinion. –  egreg Feb 28 '12 at 10:08
1  
@egreg It is better to use the right symbol U+2033 (some symbols fonts have them). Good catch with the backquote it should be a prime also. I edited it out. –  Yiannis Lazarides Feb 28 '12 at 10:42
1  
Unfortunately, the option utf8 for inputenc doesn't provide a translation for U+2032 and U+2033. There is with utf8x: they become \ensuremath{^{\prime}} and \ensuremath{^{\prime\prime}} respectively. Providing a definition for them, either with \DeclareUnicodeCharacter or via \newunicodechar may help in making an "engine-independent" document. –  egreg Feb 28 '12 at 11:09

Independent of which symbol you actually go with you should make use of the siunitx package and use DeclareSIUnit to setup the meaning of \inch. That way you can use this unit in the same manner as the other SI units, and have all the flexibility that comes with the siunitx package.

In the MWE below, I have used in, but another alternate is to use \textquotedbl (\inchQ) as shown in the output:

enter image description here

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{siunitx}

\usepackage[T1]{fontenc}% Needed for \textquotedbl
\DeclareSIUnit[number-unit-product = {}]{\inchQ}{\textquotedbl}

\DeclareSIUnit[number-unit-product = {\thinspace}]{\inch}{in}

\begin{document}
\begin{tabular}{ll}
    \SI{8.5 x 11}{\inch}  & \SI[product-units = single]{8.5 x 11}{\inch}\\
    \SI{8.5 x 11}{\inchQ} & \SI[product-units = single]{8.5 x 11}{\inchQ}
\end{tabular}
\end{document}
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If you do not want to bother with extra math packages, I would suggest you type the following:

\documentclass{article}
\begin{document}

$8.5\,'' \times 11\,''$

\end{document}

Switching to math-mode will ensure that your quotation marks are actually typeset as inch signs and not as quotes (without messing up your quotes in text-mode, indeed). Lengths such as these should usually be typeset as math anyway (lining numbers, not proportional).

(And I have never seen anything about the thinspace, though it does not seem flawed to me. It may depend on the font you are using, though.)

Edit: Have a look at Bringhurst (p. 169 for instance). The inch marks are clearly heavier at the top than at the bottom. I don't know if inverting them (as Yiannis Lazarides has done) is also acceptable, but I have never seen it. He uses proportional numbers throughout – but I would think both lining and proportional would be correct, depending on the context of course (if there is no other math at all in your document, you might want to go for proportional, otherwise go for lining).

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4  
@MarcvanDongen I disagree with Hochuli about the x: the letter and the multiplication symbol are two different objects that should be clearly distinguished. Would you use an ell for the numeral one? –  egreg Feb 28 '12 at 10:11
1  
@MarcvanDongen Yes (as I also mentioned later in my answer). But it probably depends on the context, the type of document and your other typographic choices regarding the typesetting of numbers (which in turn depend on the font, etc.) – because they have opted for this convention, which is fine in their context, does not mean all books should apply it indiscriminately. Bringhurst uses \times (and even if you use proportional numbers, the x is still semantically more of a multiplication sign… you don't want serifs there). –  ienissei Feb 28 '12 at 10:18
3  
@MarcvanDongen I believe that this recommendation is not endorsed by many authors. –  egreg Feb 28 '12 at 10:44
1  
@MarcvanDongen Not two typographers agree on everything, except perhaps the fact that typography is not about rigid rules. And that many typographic “conventions” have their origins in commonly made mistakes. –  ienissei Feb 28 '12 at 11:04
1  
@ienissei Thanks. I had noticed the different conventions:-) –  Marc van Dongen Feb 28 '12 at 11:06

As others have said, it's generally best to spell out "inches" in full.

However, the correct sign for inches is the double prime. Not right curly quotes, not straight quotes, but the mathematical double prime.

In math mode, prime can be typed with a single apostrophe, so "25 feet, 11 inches" can be abbreviated as:

25' 11''

Sources:

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Personally, I don't think it's appropriate to use the mathmode commands \prime and \prime\prime (raised to superscript height, of course) to denote the length units foot and inch. Rather, these commands should be reserved for the angular units arc-minute and arc-second.

Hence, I'd advocate the use of ' and '' in text mode for feet and inches. If there's a chance you may need these unit designations in math mode, just create the macros

\newcommand\foot{\mbox{'}}  % if using amsmath package, use \text rather than \mbox
\newcommand\inch{\mbox{''}} 
\newcommand\feet\foot   % define the plural versions of the macros...
\newcommand\inches\inch
\newcommand\by{\mbox{$\times$}} % for "by", suppress spacing placed around `times`

in the preamble. This will let you typeset the dimensions of a standard piece of construction lumber in either math or text mode, viz.,

$2\inch \by 4\inches \by 8\feet$ % math mode
2\inch \by 4\inches \by 8\feet   % text mode, using the macros
2''\by4''\by8'                   % text mode, using double and single apostrophes

as follows:

enter image description here

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