Why do we need to use a nonbreakable space ~ for the bibliography?

For example, in the book "More math into LaTeX" by G. Grätzer, on pp. 47, the following snippet of code is given:

Ernest~T. Moynahan,
\emph{Ideals and congruence relations in
lattices.} II,
Magyar Tud. Akad. Mat. Fiz. Oszt. K\"{o}zl.
\textbf{9} (1957), 417--434.

As far as I can see, using a ~ for names in the bibliography does not make sense, as names never get so long that they would be broken - in contrast for references for theorem numbers and the like, where the 2 from Theorem 2 indeed might end up on the next line, if this was typeset as Theorem \cite{sometheorem}.

  • I don't know why Grätzer adds that tie, which is pretty useless. – egreg Apr 11 '16 at 20:15
  • @egreg Glad to hear that a highly experienced tex.SX user agrees. So you would also code such a bibitem´ without the ~` ? – l7ll7 Apr 13 '16 at 10:54
  • Ties can be useful if there is a long list of authors, but that is not the case here. – Andrew Swann Aug 31 '16 at 12:43

In the book "Practical LaTeX" of George Grätzer you can find on page 94 a simular example like that you showed in your question.

  George~A. Mennuhin, \emph{Universal Algebra},
  University Series in Higher Mathematics, vol.~158,
  D.~Van Nostrand, Princton, 2012.

Here the vol.~158 and D.~Van can make sense because with the usage of \bibitem the writer of the document has the control for a good layout.

I teach my students (for didactical reasons) always write a ~ where one do not want to get a line break, if it is useless (George~A. a linebreak should not occur) or not. It is easier to write ~ always than only from time to time where it is needed.

If the bibliography is build via .bib file I do not write ~.

With the following MWE (I doubled the \bibitem to have one with ~, one without)

\documentclass[11pt]{article} % try with 10pt and 11pt


Text~\cite{gM12} Text \cite{gM13} text

    George~A. Mennuhin, \emph{Universal Algebra},
    University Series in Higher Mathematics, vol.~158,
    D.~Van Nostrand, Princton, 2012.
    George A. Mennuhin, \emph{Universal Algebra},
    University Series in Higher Mathematics, vol. 158,
    D. Van Nostrand, Princton, 2012.


I get the resulting pdf:

enter image description here

Marked with the red arrow you can see an usually unwanted line break between vol. and number 158. With other parameters for geometry or fontsize you can get the situation, that a typographic unwanted line break could happen between D. and Van. So I think it makes sense writing ~ in bibliographys build with \bibitem ...

  • You can eassily get unwanted breaks in names as well, as an author list can cover multiple lines – Chris H Aug 31 '16 at 12:18
  • I'm sure it would be possible to find a pathological combination of a 2-column reference section (IEEE journal use them), a "Surname, Firstname I." format and an author called "Verylongfirstname I. Von Ridiculously-Doublebarrelled" that could break things even so - perhaps in combination with one of those strange citation styles that presents the reader with a long key – Chris H Aug 31 '16 at 12:32

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.