I'm struggling with a command that doesn't do what I expect. This is my code


I get $\expectation{A}{B}$, but I expect $\mathrm{E}_{A}\left[B\right]$\\
Optional arguments, I get $\expectation{B}$, and I expect $\mathrm{E}\left[B\right]$

and this is the output enter image description here

This does not make a lot of sense to me. If I skip the newcommand and directly plug in what I want, everything looks fine. But the newcommand version with both inputs does something different. What am I missing?

(Even worse: I'm sure everything worked as intended yesterday. Today it doesn't anymore)

Edit: turns out this was due to a fixed bug in Texstudio. Optional arguments have to be called with brackets

  • 8
    Invoke it as \expectation[A]{B} with square, not curly brackets around the A. It is an optional argument. Curly braces are for mandatory arguments. Aug 11, 2015 at 19:17
  • 1
    Also it might be an idea to use \ifblank from etoolbox to test if the _{#1} is even needed.
    – daleif
    Aug 11, 2015 at 19:25
  • Thanks, now I understand. My editor (TeXstudio) suggests to use curly brackets for both arguments
    – Aaron
    Aug 11, 2015 at 19:32
  • 1
    As it turns out, this is a known bug. Will be fixed in the next release
    – Aaron
    Aug 11, 2015 at 19:38
  • 1
    You also might not want to have the left right construction as it easily becomes too excessive.
    – daleif
    Aug 11, 2015 at 22:25

1 Answer 1


I would use the xparse package as it keeps the default behaviors for an optional argument very manageable.



    \DeclareDocumentCommand{\expectation}{ O{} m }{%

% choose a different way of producing subscripts if you need ExplSyntax

    I get \expectation[A]{B}, but I expect $\mathrm{E}_{A}\left[B\right]$\\
    Optional arguments, I get \expectation{B}, and I expect $\mathrm{E}\left[B\right]$

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