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\newcommand{\nptime}{\ensuremath{\sf NP}}
\newcommand{\bnptime}{\ensuremath{\sf\bf NP}}


I'm trying to make a macro to typeset "NP" in boldface sans-serif font, but as demonstrated by my MWE, it's not working. BF seems to force a serif font.

Alternatively, I'd be happy to find an opposite to \ensuremath, but I can't seem to find one. I tried \text{} to no avail.

The following similar MWE does the same thing.


\newcommand{\nptime}{{\sf NP}}
\newcommand{\bnptime}{{\sf\bf NP}}

share|improve this question
You simply need \newcommand{\bnptime}{\textsf{\textbf{NP}}} that works both in text and math. Notice that \bf and \sf are deprecated commands. – egreg Feb 14 '13 at 23:03
up vote 8 down vote accepted

There's no need of \ensuremath: just use


so that \nptime and \bnptime work both in text and math mode, even scaling when used in subscript or superscript if the amsmath package is used.

You discovered why \sf, \bf and all two letter font change commands are deprecated (and they have been since more than 10 years): the combination \sf\bf is simply equivalent to \bf, just like \sf\it would produce normal italic, not sans serif, and \it\sf would produce upright sans serif.

share|improve this answer
It's not a good idea to use \text** for math, though. With this code, \bnptime{X} will appear as upright bold sans X if the surrounding text is upright, but as slanted bold sans X otherwise (as in a theorem). Assuming the question is about a math symbol, it would be safer to use \boldsymbol{\mathsf{X}} instead. – Silvio Levy Apr 26 '15 at 5:01
@SilvioLevy In case this can be a problem, a wrapping \textnormal or \textup can be used. Also \bm{\mathsf{X}} can be used, of course. – egreg Apr 26 '15 at 9:42
Regarding "a wrapping \textnormal or \textup can be used" Yes, but why should it? Why use \text** for math? Is there some secret advantage we're not aware of? The whole business of \bf, \sf, \rm, \it being a problem only arose because, after several years of NFSS not supporting these macros in math because of their fuzzy semantics, it was decided to support them again. And now we have to advise people not to use them, and point them to the alternatives. Why point to an alternative that is also semantically problematic? – Silvio Levy Apr 27 '15 at 1:39
@SilvioLevy I'm not sure I follow. These macros aren't intended to display mathematics, they're intended to display text (which can be inserted into mathematics, but follows very different typographical rules). Using \text…{…} seems quite natural to me. – Sean Allred Apr 27 '15 at 2:04
@SilvioLevy The two letter font switches are a problem independently of whether they work in maths or not. They are a problem when used in text. – cfr Apr 27 '15 at 2:40

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