In my long document I, sadly, have to use several accents to denote different kinds of symbols. Currently, I use primes ($x'$), hat, tilde, and overline. In addition I use two colored symbols (red colored tilde and blue $\prescript\ulcorner$), as I need further distinguishment.

Now I'd like to have no colors in my document, while I still have at least six different ways to differentiate certain symbols.

Which alternatives could I use that are easy to recognize and 'stand out', while they are different to prime/hat/tilde/overline?

EDIT: The reader should be able to see the kind of accent used even if the symbol in question is in a sub-script (possibly even a sub-sub-script).

  • 3
    You should peruse the Comprehensive LaTeX Symbol List to look for possible inspiration on choices.
    – Werner
    May 13, 2014 at 17:21
  • 2
    When you find a symbol that you like, consider using the accents package for doing the work with it.
    – egreg
    May 13, 2014 at 17:51
  • \ddot, \mathring, and an inverted \vec helped, although in a sub-sub-script on A5 printouts the \ddot is quite hard to read. Life's not perfect.
    – C-Otto
    May 13, 2014 at 18:07

3 Answers 3


Choose the one you like:

% arara: lualatex

\setmathfont{XITS math}

Accents above:
\item \verb+\grave+ $\grave x\quad Z_{\grave x}\quad Z_{Z_{\grave x}}$
\item \verb+\acute+ $\acute x\quad Z_{\acute x}\quad Z_{Z_{\acute x}}$
\item \verb+\hat+ $\hat x\quad Z_{\hat x}\quad Z_{Z_{\hat x}}$
\item \verb+\widehat+ $\widehat x\quad Z_{\widehat x}\quad Z_{Z_{\widehat x}}$
\item \verb+\tilde+ $\tilde x\quad Z_{\tilde x}\quad Z_{Z_{\tilde x}}$
\item \verb+\bar+ $\bar x\quad Z_{\bar x}\quad Z_{Z_{\bar x}}$
\item \verb+\overbar+ $\overbar x\quad Z_{\overbar x}\quad Z_{Z_{\overbar x}}$
\item \verb+\overline+ $\overline x\quad Z_{\overline x}\quad Z_{Z_{\overline x}}$
\item \verb+\breve+ $\breve x\quad Z_{\breve x}\quad Z_{Z_{\breve x}}$
\item \verb+\dot+ $\dot x\quad Z_{\dot x}\quad Z_{Z_{\dot x}}$
\item \verb+\ddot+ $\ddot x\quad Z_{\ddot x}\quad Z_{Z_{\ddot x}}$
\item \verb+\ovhook+ $\ovhook x\quad Z_{\ovhook x}\quad Z_{Z_{\ovhook x}}$
\item \verb+\ocirc+ $\ocirc x\quad Z_{\ocirc x}\quad Z_{Z_{\ocirc x}}$
\item \verb+\check+ $\check x\quad Z_{\check x}\quad Z_{Z_{\check x}}$
\item \verb+\candra+ $\candra x\quad Z_{\candra x}\quad Z_{Z_{\candra x}}$
\item \verb+\oturnedcomma+ $\oturnedcomma x\quad Z_{\oturnedcomma x}\quad Z_{Z_{\oturnedcomma x}}$
\item \verb+\ocommatopright+ $\ocommatopright x\quad Z_{\ocommatopright x}\quad Z_{Z_{\ocommatopright x}}$
\item \verb+\droang+ $\droang x\quad Z_{\droang x}\quad Z_{Z_{\droang x}}$
\item \verb+\leftharpoonaccent+ $\leftharpoonaccent x\quad Z_{\leftharpoonaccent x}\quad Z_{Z_{\leftharpoonaccent x}}$
\item \verb+\rightharpoonaccent+ $\rightharpoonaccent x\quad Z_{\rightharpoonaccent x}\quad Z_{Z_{\rightharpoonaccent x}}$
\item \verb+\overleftarrow+ $\overleftarrow x\quad Z_{\overleftarrow x}\quad Z_{Z_{\overleftarrow x}}$
\item \verb+\vec+ $\vec x\quad Z_{\vec x}\quad Z_{Z_{\vec x}}$
\item \verb+\dddot+ $\dddot x\quad Z_{\dddot x}\quad Z_{Z_{\dddot x}}$
\item \verb+\ddddot+ $\ddddot x\quad Z_{\ddddot x}\quad Z_{Z_{\ddddot x}}$
\item \verb+\overleftrightarrow+ $\overleftrightarrow x\quad Z_{\overleftrightarrow x}\quad Z_{Z_{\overleftrightarrow x}}$
\item \verb+\annuity+ $\annuity x\quad Z_{\annuity x}\quad Z_{Z_{\annuity x}}$
\item \verb+\widebridgeabove+ $\widebridgeabove x\quad Z_{\widebridgeabove x}\quad Z_{Z_{\widebridgeabove x}}$
\item \verb+\asteraccent+ $\asteraccent x\quad Z_{\asteraccent x}\quad Z_{Z_{\asteraccent x}}$
Accents below:
\item \verb+\wideutilde+ $\wideutilde x\quad Z_{\wideutilde x}\quad Z_{Z_{\wideutilde x}}$
\item \verb+\underbar+ $\underbar x\quad Z_{\underbar x}\quad Z_{Z_{\underbar x}}$
\item \verb+\underline+ $\underline x\quad Z_{\underline x}\quad Z_{Z_{\underline x}}$
\item \verb+\threeunderdot+ $\threeunderdot x\quad Z_{\threeunderdot x}\quad Z_{Z_{\threeunderdot x}}$
\item \verb+\underrightharpoondown+ $\underrightharpoondown x\quad Z_{\underrightharpoondown x}\quad Z_{Z_{\underrightharpoondown x}}$
\item \verb+\underleftharpoondown+ $\underleftharpoondown x\quad Z_{\underleftharpoondown x}\quad Z_{Z_{\underleftharpoondown x}}$
\item \verb+\underleftarrow+ $\underleftarrow x\quad Z_{\underleftarrow x}\quad Z_{Z_{\underleftarrow x}}$
\item \verb+\underrightarrow+ $\underrightarrow x\quad Z_{\underrightarrow x}\quad Z_{Z_{\underrightarrow x}}$
\item \verb+\underline+ $\underline x\quad Z_{\underline x}\quad Z_{Z_{\underline x}}$
Trailing signs (could be set as subscript or prescripts as well:
\item \verb+^\prime+ $x^\prime\quad Z_{x^\prime}\quad Z_{Z_{x^\prime}}$
\item \verb+^\dprime+ $x^\dprime\quad Z_{x^\dprime}\quad Z_{Z_{x^\dprime}}$
\item \verb+^\trprime+ $x^\trprime\quad Z_{x^\trprime}\quad Z_{Z_{x^\trprime}}$
\item \verb+^\qprime+ $x^\qprime\quad Z_{x^\qprime}\quad Z_{Z_{x^\qprime}}$
\item \verb+^\backprime+ $x^\backprime\quad Z_{x^\backprime}\quad Z_{Z_{x^\backprime}}$
\item \verb+^\backdprime+ $x^\backdprime\quad Z_{x^\backdprime}\quad Z_{Z_{x^\backdprime}}$
\item \verb+^\backtrprime+ $x^\backtrprime\quad Z_{x^\backtrprime}\quad Z_{Z_{x^\backtrprime}}$
\item \verb+^\hyphenbullet+ $x^\hyphenbullet\quad Z_{x^\hyphenbullet}\quad Z_{Z_{x^\hyphenbullet}}$
\item \verb+^\ast+ $x^\ast\quad Z_{x^\ast}\quad Z_{Z_{x^\ast}}$
\item \verb+^\vysmwhtcircle+ $x^\vysmwhtcircle\quad Z_{x^\vysmwhtcircle}\quad Z_{Z_{x^\vysmwhtcircle}}$
\item \verb+^\vysmblkcircle+ $x^\vysmblkcircle\quad Z_{x^\vysmblkcircle}\quad Z_{Z_{x^\vysmblkcircle}}$
\item \verb+^\llcorner+ $x^\llcorner\quad Z_{x^\llcorner}\quad Z_{Z_{x^\llcorner}}$
\item \verb+^\ulcorner+ $x^\ulcorner\quad Z_{x^\ulcorner}\quad Z_{Z_{x^\ulcorner}}$

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  • 8
    what, no foreach? :P
    – percusse
    May 13, 2014 at 18:41
  • 3
    guess, I needed some dumb work... And got some "\grave has to be in mathmode" error for my command which I was to lazy to resolve.
    – LaRiFaRi
    May 13, 2014 at 19:05
  • Where does \annuity come from?
    – C-Otto
    May 14, 2014 at 7:17
  • The command \annuity is part of the package unicode-math and is not defined in the standard LaTeX font. That's why I switched to XITS here. I try to edit my answer for annuity hack.
    – LaRiFaRi
    May 14, 2014 at 7:31
  • Sorry, I looked at solutions found on tex.stackexchange.com/search?q=annuity but they do not work for the non subscripted cases. Maybe you do a follow up question, asking how to get a $\annuity x$ with pdfLaTeX.
    – LaRiFaRi
    May 14, 2014 at 7:44

While you can do this, I'd revise my notation. If you have the same base symbol with so many variants to distinguish, your gentle reader will soon be utterly confused. Check what is standard in the area, or at least what are common alternatives. Consider using different base fonts for different concepts (e.g. I use $a_n$ for elements of a sequence, $A(z)$ and $\widehat{A}(z)$ for respective generating functions, $\mathcal{A}$ for sets; use greek letters for strings, ...).

  • 1
    It's a PhD thesis. Confusion, sadly, is expected. And there's not much "area" around that topic. I'll be open to comments from my fellow researchers, though. The main problem is that I need to deal with a single base concept which is used in several different nuances in the same proof (hence, $r', \tilde{r}, \hat{r}, \mathring{r}$).
    – C-Otto
    May 14, 2014 at 7:06
  • Feel free to judge based on the final result: verify.rwth-aachen.de/otto/papers/thesis.pdf (page 162 is a good example). I did my best to use clear symbols, but unfortunately the topic did not really allow me to restrict myself to a simpler notation.
    – C-Otto
    Jun 16, 2015 at 12:40

I had the same problem with the actuarial symbol and the subscript/superscript. I made a package who can help for some of the notation describe.

Plus, I’ve add some shortcut to save time. Like the double dot symbol, multiple subscript, etc.

The GitLab : https://vigou3.gitlab.io/actuarialsymbol/

And the CTAN : http://ctan.org/pkg/actuarialsymbol

All you need is the actuarialsymbol package.

At the beginning of the code you have to write


For the sub/superscript


Example of output:

enter image description here

I try to be consequent with the quality of the alignment. enter image description here

Example of shortcut for actuarial symbol : enter image description here

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