I've got four macros now for typesetting fractions in text mode. The first writes them horizontally (shilling style, with a hyphen), the second writes them diagonally, the third writes them vertically, and the fourth chooses the style automatically based on the number of digits in the numerator and denominator.

What would you name each of the four macros?

For now, I'm calling them \texthfrac, \textdfrac, \textvfrac, and \textfrac, respectively. Each takes 2 or 3 arguments (2 if given just a fraction; 3 if given an integer followed by a fraction). Special care in kerning is needed for the 3-arguement case.

The reason I'm asking is because what's going through my head now is wondering how much work would be involved in releasing these as a LaTeX package. I'm really happy with how these all turned out.


  • 3
    +1 for going to release it as a package. Looking forward to seeing it on CTAN :-)
    – Daniel
    Feb 3, 2012 at 16:47

3 Answers 3


We went through several iterations to get a good name for the slanted one in mathml and ended up with "bevelled" http://www.w3.org/TR/MathML3/chapter3.html#presm.mfrac which was the name used in at least some existing systems (I can't remember which).

Or as an alternative to using names, how about

\textfrac   {1}{2}  (auto
\textfrac[-]{1}{2} (vertical
\textfrac[/]{1}{2} (horiz
\textfrac[']{1}{2} (diag

Ran out of good letters for the last one, % would be good except not so good in a Tex context:-)

  • Ha! Yes, % would be interesting for diagonal. It's almost the perfect mnemonic for it. Feb 3, 2012 at 0:03
  • I very like the idea of having only one macro and changing its behavior by using different options. Maybe @ToddLehman can use pgfkeys. This would make it possible to set the options for a whole paragraph, for example. The option '/' could then be simply a style/shortcut for frac=bevelled.
    – quinmars
    Feb 3, 2012 at 20:00
  • I was also thinking a settable threshold for automatic switching between types. Right now, I've got the thresholds hard-coded in the automatic version so that if the numerator and denominator are both 1 digit, it uses the vulgar form (diagonal solidus). Else, if the numerator and denominator are both 6 or fewer digits, then it uses the nut case form (stacked vertically with horizontal divider). Else, if either the numerator or denominator are more than 6 digits, then it uses the shilling form (completely horizontal in regular text size, with diagonal solidus). Feb 3, 2012 at 20:26
  • Was this released as a package?
    – azetina
    Dec 12, 2013 at 20:28
  • @azetina it wasn't written so not released, I just suggested an interface:-) Dec 12, 2013 at 21:46

This typography blog post gives a few alternative terms:

The forward slash (/), which we met earlier, is used to create horizontally bound split fractions. Stacked fractions, also known as horizontal bar fractions or vertical fractions, consist of numbers stacked above and below a figure dash. A nut fraction is a stacked fraction that is specifically designed to fit an en space. A built fraction is one that is painstakingly assembled element by element, whereas a piece fraction is one that comes as part of a font.

All of your fractions are built fractions (which might suggest a package name of buildfrac). Nut fractions are a special kind of piece fractions, so that term can be avoided. :-)

  • Your \textvfrac is consistent with the term vertical fraction, but I happen to like stacked fraction.
  • This glossary of typographic terms calls your \textdfrac a diagonal fraction. HowToPrint and the quote above use the term split fraction.
  • Your \texthfrac is called a shilling fraction as in Mark's link to Michael Saunders's page, but also a fake fraction by PrintWiki. Fake seems like a pretty apt term for a fraction which is set with ordinary size numbers and a slash.

So, I think you would be well-understood by typographers and LaTeX users if you kept \textvfrac and \textdfrac as they are and changed \texthfrac to \textffrac (f for "fake"). Or to be more colorful you could change \textdfrac to \splitfrac, \textvfrac to \stackedfrac, and \texthfrac to \fakefrac.

  • 2
    Now excuse me while I close seven browser tabs in succession. Feb 3, 2012 at 14:21

I am sorry, but I refer to a webpage by Michael Saunders. The following is shamefully copied fom Michael's website.

  • vulgar fractions (horizontal with small numbers) using the nu and de shapes. compound vulgar fractions.
  • nut (aka case) fractions (vertical with small numbers) (The italic versions of these are a little flawed---maybe someone can improve them?).
  • compound nut fractions.
  • shilling fractions (horizontal with large numbers) available in either old-style or lining (compound shilling fractions look awful). time signatures.
  • I won't vote this down, but those names are not user-friendly. Feb 3, 2012 at 0:57
  • 1
    @Brent.Longborough Sure, but at least they provide a reference, which may allow people to look for related material. That's why I provided the "answer." Obviously, these names have been around for some time, so why invent new names?
    – user10274
    Feb 3, 2012 at 1:00
  • 4
    If I'm ever reincarnated as a number, I wanna be a compound nut fraction. Feb 3, 2012 at 1:03
  • 1
    @ToddLehman But that's because you're a special case. (See definition of nut fraction.)
    – user10274
    Feb 3, 2012 at 1:07
  • 1
    {:-) Because it's one more thing for poor old forgetful geezers like me to have to remember... Thank God for self-defining terms. Feb 3, 2012 at 9:38

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