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I am doing some display typography with an equation in it using the mathpazo package. At one point I have this fraction:

$\sqrt{-\frac{1}{9}}$

To me, the minus looks too long. I would like to make it shorter, but use of \textrm{-} gives me something that is too thick. Is there a way to get something with the thickness of the minus above, but of a similar length to a hyphen?

Edited to add: this is really for a special case of enormous type on a T-shirt design, and the standard minus sign looks strange. I would not do this for standard use of math in an article.

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11  
You do know that a minus sign is supposed to be longer than a hyphen? More generally, this is part of the font design and it's usually best for non-experts to 'take it or leave it' with a font: if you don't like it, pick another font. –  Joseph Wright Nov 27 '10 at 18:49
    
@Joseph: +1, though I can see why one would prefer the negativity sign to be a bit shorter than the minus (though I'm not that experienced with math typography to know if it makes sense or not). –  Khaled Hosny Nov 27 '10 at 19:03
2  
@Khaled. See the related discussion here: tex.stackexchange.com/questions/4756/… –  Joseph Wright Nov 27 '10 at 19:13
4  
Yes, I know, but this is really for a special case of enormous type on a T-shirt design, and the standard minus sign looks strange. I would not do this for standard use of math in an article. –  Michael Hoffman Nov 27 '10 at 21:06
    
Good point -- and it would be good to mention that in the question. –  Hendrik Vogt Nov 28 '10 at 9:18
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3 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Would something as simple as a \scalebox do?

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{fixltx2e,graphicx,mathpazo}
\begin{document}
\( \sqrt{\scalebox{0.75}[1.0]{\( - \)}\frac{1}{9}} \)

% cf.
\( \sqrt{-\frac{1}{9}} \) 
\end{document}

Here, I am using the optional argument to \scalebox to set the vertical scaling to 1, so that only the horizontal size changes.

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1  
Cool, I didn't know that \scalebox has an optional argument for the vertical scaling. (It might be worth explaining this in the answer.) –  Hendrik Vogt Nov 29 '10 at 14:52
1  
Simple macro for this: \newcommand{\unaryminus}{\scalebox{0.75}[1.0]{\( - \)}}. Then you can insert a unary minus with \unaryminus. –  Danilo Bargen Jan 21 '13 at 13:53
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for a unary minus that isn't going to be surrounded by a lot of other math -- you did say this would be on a t-shirt -- you might try an en-dash. it's thinner and wider than a hyphen, but at about the same height off the baseline as a hyphen, so you might want to fiddle a bit with the vertical position.

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Here is a very hackish solution that draws a rule instead:

\def\minus{%
  \setbox0=\hbox{-}%
  \vcenter{%
    \hrule width\wd0 height \the\fontdimen8\textfont3%
  }%
}
$$
-A \quad \minus A
$$
\bye

Update: a LaTeX version:

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{mathpazo}

\begin{document}
\newcommand\minus{%
  \setbox0=\hbox{-}%
  \vcenter{%
    \hrule width\wd0 height \the\fontdimen8\textfont3%
  }%
}
\[
-A \quad \minus A \quad \textrm{-}A
\]
\end{document}
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