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The following TeX breaks rendering, but if I remove the \left function, the TeX renders (but without the stretchy brace). I'm helping a colleague and I'm too new to LaTeX and TeX to know how to approach fixing this.

\ \ \small{w_{1}[n] } = \left{ 
 1 & \ \ \small{n=0,1,...,12}\\
 0 & \ \ \text{otherwise} \\
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You are missing the matching \right. (an empty delimiter). Is this in a TeX document? – egreg Nov 26 '12 at 16:28

2 Answers 2

You wrote \left{ <stuff>. TeX is trying to make <stuff> into a left delimiter because { opens a group. You probably meant to write \left\{ <stuff>.

Moreover, you probably should just be using the cases environment from amsmath instead.

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Combine your answer with the egreg's comment above to get the pretty perfect answer! ;-) – Paul Gaborit Nov 26 '12 at 17:03
I edited the TeX to this, but it still doesn't render. \small{w_{1}[n] } = \left\{ \begin{array}{ll} 1 \ \ \small{n=0,1,...,12}\\0 \ \ \text{otherwise} \\\ \end \right {array} – pwilkins Nov 26 '12 at 18:56
@pwilkins \right also needs to be followed by a delimiter, e.g., \right\}. If you don't want a right delimiter use \right. (including the dot!). – clemens Nov 26 '12 at 19:11
Bingo! That's turned the trick. The original TeX didn't have the trailing brace so the 'dot' fixed it. Here's my working version: $$ \small{w_{1}[n] } = \left\{ \begin{array}{ll} 1 \ \ \small{n=0,1,...,12}\\0 \ \ \text{otherwise} \\\ \end{array}\right. $$ – pwilkins Nov 26 '12 at 19:11

Your use of the \small directive when TeX is in math mode can't work. (Moreover, the command \small is a switch and doesn't take an argument.) I suggest that you set up the MWE as follows instead:

\[ % begin display math
w_{1}[n]  = 
   1 & n=0,1,\dots,12\\
   0 & \text{otherwise} \\
\] % end display math

enter image description here

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I believe that the question refers only to MathJax; where \small has no effect, in my experiment. – egreg Nov 26 '12 at 23:52
@egreg - in TeX's math mode, executing \small won't have an effect either, right? – Mico Nov 27 '12 at 4:39
It issues a warning: `LaTeX Font Warning: Command \small invalid in math mode' – egreg Nov 27 '12 at 7:23

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