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I've got a sentence that ends on an acronym:

blah blah WORD. Next sentence blah

Running this through chktex, I'm informed that:

Warning 13 in ./file.tex line 9: Intersentence spacing (`\@') should perhaps be used.

I have two questions: firstly, am I correctly using the intersentence spacing when do this:

blah blah WORD.\@ Next sentence

as opposed to this:

blah blah WORD.\@Next sentence

The second seems to remove the spacing between the period and the N entirely; but it does get rid of the warning from chktex. On the other hand, I can't see any difference between WORD.\@ Next and WORD. Next.

Secondly, when should I use it? I can't visually see any difference in output (hence the first question) - is checking and using this something I should be doing, or is it minor enough that not worrying about it isn't going to produce visually-noticeable effects?

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1 Answer 1

up vote 42 down vote accepted

Part of the following is taken almost verbatim from the Fourth Edition of George Grätzer's More Math into LaTeX:

LaTeX places a certain size space between words—the interword space—and a somewhat larger space between sentences—the intersentence space (as required in English typography). To know which space to use, LaTeX must decide whether or not a period indicates the end of a sentence.

To LaTeX, a period after a capital letter, for instance, A., signifies an abbreviation or an initial. Generally, every other period signifies the end of a sentence.

This rule works most of the time. When it fails—for instance, twice with e.g.—you need to specify the type of space you want, using the following two rules.

Rule 1

If an abbreviation does not end with a capital letter, for instance, etc., and it is not the last word in the sentence, then follow the period by an interword space (\) or a tie if appropriate. Recall that \ provides an interword space.

\documentclass{article}

\begin{document}

\noindent The result was first published, in a first approximation,
in the Combin.\ Journal. \\
The result was first published,
in a first approximation, in the Combin. Journal.

\end{document}

prints as

enter image description here

Notice that "Combin." in the first line is followed by a regular interword space. The intersentence space following "Combin." in the second line is a little wider.

A tie (or nonbreakable space) is more appropriate than \in phrases such as Prof. Smith, typed as Prof.~Smith, and pp. 271–292, typed as pp.~271--292.

The thebibliography environment handles periods properly. You do not have to mark periods for abbreviations in the name of a journal, so

Acta Math. Acad. Sci. Hungar.

is correct.

Rule 2

If a capital letter is followed by a period and is at the end of a sentence, precede the period with \@. For example,

\documentclass{article}

\begin{document}

\noindent follows from condition~H\@. We can proceed\\
follows from condition~H. We can proceed

\end{document}

prints:

enter image description here

Notice that there is not enough space after "H." in the second line.

To make all intersentence spaces equal to the interword space—as required in French and Spanish typography—you can use the command

\frenchspacing

To switch back to using spaces of different sizes, give the command

\nonfrenchspacing

Addressing now the specific question, the \@ command must be used to generate the correct kind of space in the cases in which LaTeX mechanism fails; if \@ is used to the right of a dot, it prevents extra space from being added (the dot will not be considered as a symbol ending a sentece). If \@ is used to the left of a dot, it tells LaTeX to interpret the dot as a symbol ending a sentece.

Let's take a look at your concrete example; let's compare the result of:

\documentclass{article}

\begin{document}

\noindent blah blah WORD. Next sentence \\
blah blah WORD.\@ Next sentence \\
blah blah WORD\@. Next sentence \\

\end{document}

enter image description here

The first two lines produce the same (incorrect) result. In the first line, LaTeX sees the dot as a non end-of-sentence symbol, so it uses the interword spacing; in the second line, adding \@ to the right of the dot has no effect at all (it would only prevent extra space from being added); the third line will produce the correct result (notice the extra spacing after "WORD.") since by using \@ to the left of the dot, we are telling LaTeX that the dot must be considered as an end-of-sentece symbol.

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8  
Note a disadvantage of using \@ with traditional TeX or pdfTeX: Similar to empty braces (i.e. {}), it destroys kerning. Compare, for instance, P. and P\@.. –  mhp May 9 '12 at 19:42
8  
@mph For keeping the kerning, P.\spacefactor\sfcode.{}` is needed. –  egreg May 9 '12 at 21:58
3  
\@ has another disadvantage: It prevents the automatic suppression of the italic correction for the elements of \nocorrlist. Compare, for instance, \textit{P}. and \textit{P}\@.. –  mhp May 17 '12 at 12:21
    
But if you must use \nonfrenchspacing, is P\@. (or whatever) still the best thing all around to use in order to get the right space after punctuation? (Incidentally, because of your comments above, I don't use \@ when a paragraph ends with a sentence that ends with a capital letter, since there's no extra space that needs to be added then. It seems easy enough to add the \@ when you need to add another sentence.) –  MSC Jun 6 '13 at 23:00
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