# Difference between symbols for absolute value?

I know all of the following are used for showing the absolute value:

• $\lvert x \rvert$
• $| x |$
• $\mid x \mid$

I myself think that there is another one \abs; but I can't use this last one.

What is the difference between them?

• Possible Duplicate: Absolute Value Symbols. Oct 8, 2017 at 8:22
• The first is right, the second one can produce unexpected results, the last one is wrong. Oct 8, 2017 at 8:34
• @egreg ; (+1) Clear and concise, thank you my dear egreg. Oct 8, 2017 at 9:05

You ask for the differences and here's an analysis for them.

First let's get rid of the last case: \mid is a relation symbol like = or < and TeX adds spaces around it that disqualify the command from being used for the absolute value.

The other two seem good, but the first one is better as it doesn't need precautions. The fact is that | is considered an ordinary symbol, whereas \lvert is an opening (like [) and \rvert is a closing (like ]).

Let's compare some cases.

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{amsmath}

\begin{document}
$\begin{array}{lllll} \text{good} & \lvert x\rvert\le 1 & \lvert-1\rvert=1 & \lvert\sin x\rvert & \log\lvert x-1\rvert \\[3ex] \text{so and so} & |x|\leq 1 & |-1|=1 & |\sin x| & \log|x-1| \\[3ex] \text{wrong} & \mid x\mid \leq 1 & \mid -1\mid =1 & \mid \sin x\mid & \log\mid x-1\mid \end{array}$

\end{document}


You can see in the picture that \lvert and \rvert produces the right spacing in all cases, whereas |...| doesn't. Not to speak about \mid.

Using | would force you to input

|{-1}|
|{\sin x}|
\log\!|x-1|


You can define \abs as suggested in answers to Absolute Value Symbols but I recommend not to follow the suggestion of making \left and \right automatic, because it will most of the time choose a wrong size.

• Is the spacing for log |x-1| in the first line considered correct? Personally, I find the version in the second line a lot better-looking (for that last formula only). Oct 8, 2017 at 15:22
• @FedericoPoloni I consider the absolute value just like a parenthesized expression, so the top is right, but I wouldn't turn down consistent usage like in the second line. Oct 8, 2017 at 15:23
• Does "so and so" mean "acceptable"? Oct 9, 2017 at 11:10
• @Ooker It means that in some cases it's right, in others it's wrong; precisely, the first is right, the last might be acceptable (see another comment), the middle ones are plainly wrong. Oct 9, 2017 at 11:51
• Can TeX be complied like programming languages? For example in your example can I use a loop to print the sin, log three times with different cases? Oct 9, 2017 at 22:07