I have used the \def command for several long scientific terms so that I can have an easy shorthand reference and do not have to keep typing them out every time e.g. \carb for $\delta$$^{13}$C (full code \def\carb{$\delta$$^{13}$C }). However if I do not include the final space after the C the output runs into the next word. This is problematic if I use the definition before full stops or ) because it adds an extra space, for example (δ13C ) or [δ13C .].

I tried the xspace package which did work for punctuation problems, but it doesn't add a space after words which I would like in italics. I added {} in my document and this did solve the problem, but I was wondering if there was an easier way? An example of a define command I have which has this problem is: \def\geog{\textit{geography\xspace}}

Thank you!

  • 1
    Welcome! Please expand your code to an example which people can compile and which demonstrates the problem. However, {} is the standard approach and xspace is know to be not without problems. You would, however, be wise to avoid \def and use \newcommand if you are using LaTeX. Also, why do you have $$? This just ends maths mode and immediately begins it again.
    – cfr
    Sep 13, 2017 at 13:55
  • If you really want to use \xspace, it should be the very last item in the body of the definition. Don't use \def, but \newcommand; once you do \def\box{box} you'll know why.
    – egreg
    Sep 13, 2017 at 13:57
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    that is simply user error and should be \def\geog{\textit{geography}\xspace} although personally I wouldn't use xspace (even though I wrote it) Sep 13, 2017 at 14:02
  • Thanks for pointing out my mistake, once I put \xspace in the right place it worked! I'll also change the code to \newcommand instead. Thanks so much for your help.
    – user141013
    Sep 13, 2017 at 14:04
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2 Answers 2


I wouldn't use a tons of command like \carb. This method is at the end imho quite messy and quite often good command names are already take by other packages. I would use one command, e.g. \sh (for shorthand) with an argument. Beside solving the problem with the space it also allows you to use numbers and punctuations. A simple method is this but you can also use glossaries or acro.


\newcommand\sh[1]{\csname myshorthand@#1\endcsname}

\sh{carb}, \sh{carb} blblb 

\sh{carb-12}, \sh{carb-n}


enter image description here


I wouldn't use \xspace but if you do use it the syntax is

  • 1
    I believe that the exponent refers to the subsequent C.
    – egreg
    Sep 13, 2017 at 14:07
  • @egreg I deleted that bit then, but the markup's not great in any case:-) Sep 13, 2017 at 14:21

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