Taking an example from category theory, given a category "C", the opposite category is usually denoted "C^op". Where "op" is an abbreviation for opposite. Now there are three ways to put this in latex:

  • As C^{op}
  • As C^\operatorname{op}
  • As C^\text{op}

While I wouldn't use the first one, thw second and third both make sense to me in some way. So is their a convention which one should use, and if so, what's the reasoning behind it

2 Answers 2


The first one might not be a good idea, like you already noticed, because op could be mistaken for o⋅p. But I don’t think the other options are correct either.

\operatorname{op} puts correct spacing around keywords, when used as mathematical operators. That is not the case here.

\text{op}, at least syntactical, means prose. But you are trying to display mathematical notation.

So I think the best way is to use \mathrm{op}. Or still better, define


and use it as \opcat{C}.

  • 2
    7 seconds slower (but we agree on the answer:-) Feb 12, 2014 at 14:39
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    @DavidCarlisle: Indeed, congratulations, you have my upvote ;-)
    – bodo
    Feb 12, 2014 at 14:40
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    Likewise, you have mine:-) Feb 12, 2014 at 14:44
  • I would argue for the use of \text, due to its font-preserving properties, and the fact that the label (not an index) is actually text. You're not merely marking up some mathematical symbols in a Roman font, you're indicating the presence of a standard vernacular word or abbreviation thereof.
    – Xerxes
    Feb 12, 2014 at 18:36
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    @Xerxes I'd strongly disagree here op is not an abbreviation for a natural language vernacular word; it is a specific categorical operator which just happens to use a superscript rather than prefix notation. It should not pick up the surrounding text font any more than log or sin should. Feb 13, 2014 at 10:40

Definitely not ^{op} the math italic font should never be used for multi-letter identifiers.

^\operatorname{op} (by default) uses the same font as \mathrm with \mathop spacing (the same as \log or \sin. The \mathop has no effect in the usage shown but would in other contexts.

^\text{op} (with the amsmath definition of \text) will make a mathord, using the current text font.

Probably I would use (a macro defined as) \mathrm{op} so that it uses the \mathrm font with mathord spacing.

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