The memoir manual mentions

measuring the length of the lowercase alphabet

in order to decide the numbers of characters per line. Can this be done with LaTeX?

  • Both answers seem to be equal correct and elegant (at least to my eyes). I can't decide which one I should accept...
    – pmav99
    May 4, 2011 at 19:21
  • My answer is the "official" LaTeX way, while Yiannis one uses plainTeX macros. I personally actually use that macros more often because you only need to box the content once and get the height, width and depth using \ht, \wd and \dp respectively. May 4, 2011 at 20:07

3 Answers 3


If with the length it means the width of all lowercase letters than you can use \settowidth{<length register>}{<content>}:


(I took the liberty to use the same format as Yiannis answer to allow for better comparison. His answer is fine too, but I wanted to show the official LaTeX way.)


You can place the letters in a box and measure its length. Here is a minimal to do this.

  • @pmav99 \textgreek{parakal`w}
    – yannisl
    May 4, 2011 at 19:32
  • @Yiannis You are hardcore! This is the Unicode age :P
    – pmav99
    May 4, 2011 at 19:47
  • I finally chose Martin's answer as he uses one less `\` ... LOL
    – pmav99
    May 4, 2011 at 19:49
  • 2
    @pmav99 I see, my solution was optimized for the minimum number of curly brackets!
    – yannisl
    May 5, 2011 at 3:33
  • @Yiannis: then replace \sbox\alphabet{...} by \savebox\alphabet\hbox\bgroup...\egroup. May 14, 2011 at 13:16

Just for the record, page 15 of memman.pdf brings the following to print the length of the lowercase alphabet:

\newlength{\mylen}                % a length
\newcommand{\alphabet}{abc...xyz} % the lowercase alphabet
\begingroup                       % keep font change local
% font specification e.g., \Large\sffamily
The length of this alphabet is \the\mylen. % print in document
\typeout{The length of the Large sans alphabet
    is \the\mylen}                         % put in log file
\endgroup                         % end the grouping

Which is basically @Martin's way.

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