I am in the process of proofreading a major XeTeX document of more than 600 pages. It is hardly surprising that there are quite a few cases of overfull \hboxes; I usually get about 150 of them.

I am wondering what you would view as the most effective way of dealing with them, considering that I am pressed for time and and would like to avoid dealing with each and every of them by hand.

Would you...

• change the document's global \pretolerance or \badness values in order to reduce the number of problems?

• set the document in draft mode and deal with the most conspicuous ones manually, by inserting sloppypar environments, and leave the less conspicuous ones as they are?

• or do you happen to have any other suggestions?

Thank you in advance! Thomas

  • The very first thing to do is use the microtype package. The next is to look at words that are not broken and see whether they have appropriate hyphenations defined. Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 12:59
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    it depends. Your question is to vage. Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 12:59
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    Impossible to say in this generality, in particular I'd look at the markup or content that is generating the bad boxes. Perhaps you are using a construct that is inhibiting hyphenation or glue stretching (this is surprisingly common and can be as simple as spurious {} groups in math), or perhaps not, but if you are, then using a better generic markup before worrying about individual bad breaks is probably a good plan. Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 13:36
  • I had the same problem, and almost all of them were in tables. You can use the log file to find the specific errors. After you fix a few of them, you will probably discover some recurring problems, such as a poorly constructed macro, that will resolve multiple others at once. You may need to make MWEs or compile only parts of your document as you go, both to speed things up and to isolate the problem. Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 14:49

1 Answer 1


150 sounds like a lot, so first you should see if there is a generic construct that you are using that is preventing good breaks. Possible culprits include:

  • regular use of monospace or otherwise unbreakable inline fragments

  • Use of any kind of boxed material or inline math that does not have infix operators at the top level

  • Use of a language with insufficient hyphenation patterns for the text being used.

  • Use of OT1 instead of T1 encoding.

If anything in the above is the cause of the overfull boxes, you need to address that first before looking at individual bad breaks.

Assuming that there are not any obvious generic issues with the content, microtype package can help tune linebreaking, also you can adjust the paragraph parameters to allow more stretching in the white space it's possible to increase this slightly without allowing the excessive white space stretching of \sloppy.

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