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According to an AUCTeX reference card, ` a inserts \alpha{} and this works well in my setup. I just don't see any reason I ever used a greek letter with curly braces. This means I always have to delete them. Is there a way to have AUCTeX insert just \alpha when typing ` a?

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If you do it inside math mode, e.g. inside \( \) or $ $, it will omit the curly braces. – N.N. Apr 8 '12 at 20:54
Great! I should have experimented a bit more first :-) – Marius Hofert Apr 8 '12 at 20:57
You should have but this is a problem I am sure others have stumbled upon too so I think the question make sense. Since it helped you I converted my comment into an answer. – N.N. Apr 9 '12 at 6:47
up vote 6 down vote accepted

There may not be any reason to disable this behavior since the braces are omitted if used inside math mode. When you do ` a inside any structure that enables math mode, such as inside \( \), $ $, equation or align, AUCTeX will omit the braces. For example the behavior for equation is the following:

  1. (cursor) is not really in the code but just to mark where the cursor is.

  2. You press ` a.

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You can also put the line

(setq TeX-insert-braces nil)

into your init file to keep the braces from ever being inserted when AUCTeX inserts a macro.

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