I am writing a LaTeX export feature for my database. To this end, I am doing a symbol-by-symbol transformation of special characters in latin-1 text fields to LaTeX macros, such as _ to \_, ~ to \textasciitilde, and so end. When doing this, many macro commands need to be separated from text immediately following it, or I will end up with errors like "~user" being transformed to "\textasciitildeuser".

Using Google I came up with a number of different ways to achieve this separation, such as:

  • putting a white space at the end of the macro, e.g. '\textasciitilde '
  • putting an empty pair of brackets at the end, e.g. '\textasciitilde{}'
  • putting the macro into brackets, e.g. '{\textasciitilde}'

What is the correct an intended way to separate a LaTeX macro command from the text immediately following it? For instance, the third way seems a little problematic to me since putting stuff in brackets may have additional effect, e.g. when the text is used as content of BibTeX fields.

Any advise is appreciated.


Use a space Especially in math mode both {\foo} and \foo{} will have an adverse effect on spacing, and as you comment surrounding the command may negate it altogether, for example {\small} does nothing as the font change is discarded at the }.

  • 2
    Isn't it a bit more complicated? If the original was å finne then \aa finne produces the wrong output. So it depends on whether a space is wanted after the command or not. – Loop Space Aug 26 '13 at 10:22
  • @AndrewStacey for generated code I think it's easier to think of it as always terminating by a space, if you want to add a space you can add \ anyway \aa \ finne is OK – David Carlisle Aug 26 '13 at 10:37
  • Having done some testing, I tend to agree with Andrew's comment. Maybe (at least in my case) using a terminating {} is an easier way to go since I work with a symbol-by-symbol transformation. Detecting whether an actual space follows a latex command would complicate the code to some degree. If the spacing in math mode (which is not a problem in my scenario) is the only caveat, I think I am fine with this solution. – MRA Aug 26 '13 at 12:15

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.