{syntax} is about the principles and construction of the (La)TeX language.

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327
votes
8answers
34k views

Why is \[ … \] preferable to $$ … $$?

I've heard that you should use \[ ... \] for displayed equations instead of $$ ... $$, but why is that? I'd assumed that it's so that you can more easily tell which are starting and which are ending ...
195
votes
4answers
11k views

What is the use of percent signs (%) at the end of lines?

I see that the code in many packages and examples contains percent signs % at the end of (many) lines. What are they used for? Do they affect the parsing of those lines?
192
votes
9answers
17k views

Are \( and \) preferable to dollar signs for math mode?

Along the lines of Why is \[ ... \] preferable to $$?, what reasons are there (if any) to favor \( ... \) over $ ... $?
95
votes
2answers
30k views

When to use \par and when \\

What is the difference between \par and \\ and when should I use \par instead of \\?
89
votes
4answers
4k views

Techniques and packages to keep up with good practices

Question What techniques and packages are there to keep up with good practices? What I already know I already know of the following packages for this kind of purpose: \RequirePackage[l2tabu,...
87
votes
4answers
117k views

When should one use \verb and when \texttt

Sometimes people here use \verb!A SHORT COMMAND! and sometimes \textt{A SHORT COMMAND}. I'm unsure when to use which. Are there any guidelines or arguments for \verbatim vs. \texttt?
63
votes
5answers
67k views

How to escape the & (ampersand) character in BibTeX?

I would like to put a & character in a BibTeX publisher tag. Thus far I have tried: \& {&} {\&} "&" with the full value enclosed in curly braces and double quotes. No matter ...
54
votes
6answers
14k views

Syntax Coloring in LaTeX

Is there any way to include Python code in a LaTeX file and automatically color its syntax? Is it possible to do syntax coloring with any other language? If yes what packages can I use to do that?
49
votes
2answers
22k views

How should I type author names in a bib file?

Can someone please explain in a clear and concise way how am I supposed to enter the names of authors in a BibTeX file? I have entries with something like @article{someid, author = {Juan A. ...
41
votes
2answers
45k views

How do I put text over symbols?

This is difficult for me to explain, but how do I put words over a symbol? For instance, I want to add words over an equal sign. Anyone know the command/syntax for that? Also adding ^ doesn't cut it.....
38
votes
8answers
4k views

Why do people use unnecessary braces?

I often see people creating new macros where the macro token is surrounded by braces. For example, \newcommand{\foo}{foo} This is unnecessary and I find the extra braces make it harder to read. Why ...
38
votes
3answers
6k views

What is the difference in citing/referencing with or without tilde?

I've seen examples referencing a table as follows: Table~\ref{table:overview} shows an overview of all the elements. What is the use of the tilde in front of \ref or \cite and when do you have to ...
37
votes
1answer
25k views

\varepsilon vs. \epsilon

I cannot remember anyone writing the letter epsilon in any other way than \varepsilon in any math class; but in LaTeX \epsilon and \varepsilon are different symbols. Do any of you know why there are ...
36
votes
2answers
26k views

How to highlight Python syntax in LaTeX Listings \lstinputlistings command

I am using package listings to import my Python source code into my LaTeX document. I use the command \lstinputlistings. I have a Python source like class MyClass(Yourclass): def __init__(self, ...
29
votes
7answers
2k views

What's a good editor for (La)TeX programming?

I've found several questions about editors for writing LaTeX documents ( LaTeX Editors/IDEs seems to be the definitive one). But I'd like to know which editors are out there that help you develop ...
28
votes
3answers
14k views

Which package can be used to write BNF grammars?

I googled and found two packages: mdwtools bnf Unfortunately, both of them have extremely poor documentation. There are only one to two examples for each one, which makes it hard to follow. ...
28
votes
1answer
1k views

] inside an optional argument

I accidentally discovered (here) that a closing square bracket within an optional argument delimited by [ ] can cause problems. Here is example code illustrating the issue: \documentclass{article} ...
27
votes
3answers
37k views

Logical “and” character in TeX

I'm trying to write a logical syllogism in the form of ((a -> b) & (c -> a)) -> (c -> b). But I don't know how to write Logical And character. It's something like caret character (^), but not as a ...
25
votes
2answers
909 views

The rhyme and reason of function argument syntax (brackets versus braces)

I'd like to gain some intuition as to the choices of brackets versus braces in function arguments. As in [...yadda...] versus {...yadda...}. I'm a long-time user of LaTeX but am poorly educated as to ...
24
votes
2answers
564 views

Backward definition of (La)TeX commands

Again and again I see, that TeXnicians define commands and do several things with them in the reverse order, I would do this as amateur. See this example: In his answer to scrpage2: Three "marks&...
22
votes
3answers
886 views

Why are text format commands used inside braces?

Most commands in Latex are written with the arguments inside braces following the command: \command{arguments}. But text formatting options, like \em, or \scriptsize are usually written inside the ...
22
votes
3answers
18k views

Reference name of description list item in LaTeX

(Repost from Stack Overflow) I'd like to refer to a description list item by name instead of number. To that effect, I've added labels to each item, but when referencing them I only get the name of ...
21
votes
6answers
1k views

LaTeX Markup Options?

I was wondering what prevented the implementation of a MarkDown system in (La)TeX? I know that pandoc does a conversion of MarkDown with extra features to LaTeX. I also know that many are happy with ...
20
votes
7answers
5k views

How to convert mediawiki syntax to latex?

I think I've seen a script for converting mediawiki syntax to Latex. Also, in case there are more than one solution for this, it might be nice to summarize them here.
20
votes
3answers
2k views

Typesetting LaTeX Source Code with the listings package

I am writing some documentation for a LaTeX package, in which I am going to be including some example LaTeX code. What is the best way to typeset that code? I know I could just use verbatim, but it ...
20
votes
1answer
111k views

How to write a not equal to sign in Latex pseudocode

How do I write not equal to sign (equivalent of != in C) in Latex pseudocode.
20
votes
4answers
3k views

How to make a real backslash (escape) character?

I just want a good way to make a backslash character (or whatever character(s) any given format uses as escape characters), suitable to \write to a file or pass to a pdfTeX primitive. Let me ...
18
votes
3answers
3k views

What is the deal about these semantic vs syntactic commands?

I keep hearing people on this site talking about "semantic" vs "syntactic" commands and that the "semantic" ones are somehow better. I don't really get what they are talking about, could you explain ...
18
votes
5answers
7k views

The key to understanding the LaTeX syntax

I'm having serious problems understanding the syntax of LaTeX well. I know a lot of programming languages but LaTeX still is a little cryptic for me. Do you know what the key to fully understanding it ...
18
votes
1answer
288 views

Is there a reason for \usepackage with options in a separate line?

I understand that these two commands do the same thing: \usepackage[letterpaper, landscape, margin=2in]{geometry} and \usepackage{geometry} \geometry{legalpaper, landscape, margin=2in} Is there ...
16
votes
3answers
800 views

Short version of emph?

Is there something like a short version of \emph? What I want is something comparable to \lstShortInline or what the shortvrb provides, just not for the \verb command but for the \emph command instead....
16
votes
4answers
3k views

Syntax of TeX/LaTeX

{} and [] do some kind of grouping, and comma seems to be special as well. Being a programmer I find it frustrating to use Latex on incantation-only basis. I would like to know how does it exactly ...
16
votes
2answers
1k views

What is the difference between square brackets and curly brackets in a command invocation?

Pardon the naive beginner question. In a command like: \textcolor[HTML]{4C7045}{dark green text}, or \documentclass[12pt]{article}, or \begin{figure}[htb], why are some arguments surrounded by [] and ...
16
votes
1answer
477 views

Are there guidelines on how to read commented sources of LaTeX packages?

I'm trying to read source2e.pdf (texdoc source2e on the command line), but I'm stumped. It seems a rather mysterious tome to me. As I understand from this answer about what arguments a command expects,...
15
votes
2answers
501 views

Why does `x_\text y` work?

As far as I have understand the tokenization in LaTeX, x_\text y will be split up into x _ \text y Now the _ will consume/bind to the next token. However, \text takes an argument as well. If _ ...
15
votes
2answers
673 views

New language - hyphenation

I'm working in a project (Ubuntu Manual, if you're curious) which requires TeX to create a PDF document. But when we have almost all translated, I've found that there wasn't an hyphenation pattern for ...
15
votes
1answer
235 views

How do I insert a tie (~, non-breaking space, tilde) under expl3 syntax?

I need to define a token list of the form \tl_new:N \g_silly_tl \tl_set:Nn \g_silly_tl { Text ~ and ~ a ~ tie:?? } How do I do this? More generally, is there a reference where one can see how ...
15
votes
3answers
2k views

How to add custom C++ keywords to be recognized by Minted?

I have defined several structures and types in a C++ project. I have to write some documentation for this code, and I use the minted package to typeset my code. I would like to be able to add some ...
14
votes
2answers
608 views

History of the command \verb

Recently I inherited some LaTeX code for a CV that contained an e-mail address typed with \verb}john.smith@uni.org}. This snippet was in the middle of an multicol environment (so it was within several ...
14
votes
5answers
2k views

Use column-separator & (ampersand) inside \newenvironment

I'd like to define a grammar environment which basically wraps a tabular environment. Inside the grammar environment I'd like to use an environment called production to insert rows. Example: \...
13
votes
1answer
793 views

Should two pictures side by side have 0.5 or 0.49999 textwidth?

Two pictures should be next to each other. What is their perfect width? Is 0.5 + 0.5 = 1 for TeX, or does the compiler need a tiny space between the objects? Should \includegraphics[width=0.5\...
12
votes
2answers
5k views

Why \land instead of \and?

I recently asked the logical and character in TeX and got \land as the answer. My question is, why \land, and why not simple \and? I mean, does l here refer to something technical, or historical, or ...
12
votes
2answers
243 views

Can spaces at the beginning of a line ever cause problems?

To structure my sourcecode, I often use spaces for padding: \newcommand{\st}[1]{% \begin{tabular}{lr} \emph{Student} & \emph{Score}\\ #1 \end{tabular}% } Can this ever cause ...
12
votes
1answer
12k views

How to use symbols such as \delta and \lambda

I'm trying to use symbols such as \lambda and \delta but for some reason it's not compiling. I've reproduced the problem in the following code: \documentclass[12pt,a4paper,oneside]{article} \begin{...
11
votes
2answers
3k views

What is the difference between \fboxsep=1cm and \setlength{\fboxsep}{1cm}?

Question has been written above.
11
votes
5answers
824 views

How do I print a syntax-highlighted LaTeX source file?

I want to print an example source file so that I can study it. How do I print it with syntax highlighting? I'm currently using TeXShop in MacTeX; apparently it doesn't have this ability. What program ...
11
votes
2answers
3k views

LaTeX for loop \@for

In user700902's answer to this thread, a for-loop with the syntax \@for is used. How does this syntax work? I tried searching about for-loops on other websites, but I could only find something like ...
9
votes
2answers
572 views

What is the role of an unescaped circumflex or hat character “ ^ ”?

Is there any use for the unescaped ^ in (La)TeX, when not in math mode? If not, I couldn't see why it's necessary to escape it.
9
votes
2answers
664 views

A better way to do nested lists

This is how you type set a nested list in LaTeX: \begin{itemize} \item I have a house \begin{itemize} \item It has 4 walls \item a roof, \item two windows, \...
9
votes
1answer
100 views

weird ifnum with compact syntax [duplicate]

In some packages like tabularx, I find the following syntax in many places {\ifnum0=`}\fi or even \ifnum0=`{\fi} But I can't figure out why this can be useful for? Is ` a register of some kind? ...