Let's say in my preamble I define \DeclareMathOperator\rad{rad} and have the text

Let $f$ be a smooth function and $f^{\rad}$ its radial symmetrization.

It is inconvenient to have to enclose the \rad in curly braces. I could work around it by defining it as \newcommand\rad{{\operatorname{rad}}} instead. But at another place in my document I write

Let $n$ be a positive integer and $2 \rad(n)$ be twice its radical.

If I use \newcommand\rad{{\operatorname{rad}}}, there is no space between 2 and rad. (See newcommand vs. DeclareMathOperator)

So my question is: How can I allow a command to be used directly in superscript or subscript, while preserving the correct spacing when it is appears in the middle of a formula?

Related: Double subscript error with \newcommand?

  • 1
    enclosing \rad in braces shouldn't be seen as inconvenient, it is the (only) documented syntax for ^ in latex, which takes a brace delimited argument. The latex book always shows x^{2} for example even though x^2 works due to implementation details and lack of error checking. Jun 21, 2018 at 18:57
  • there we go...\^([^{\\]|\\[a-zA-Z]*) Jun 21, 2018 at 19:41
  • Remark: There's always the option of globally search-and-replace the document in LaTeX itself instead of externally, or maybe making ^ (and _) math-active, but they have other disadvantages.
    – user202729
    Jun 13 at 16:06

1 Answer 1


If you just use \rad in exponents and not really as an operator, then defining


will let you type


Note that \DeclareMathOperator is not a shorthand for getting \mathrm.

If you need \rad as an operator in other contexts, then no, you can't, for the same reason that ^\notin will produce an error.

On the other hand, is there a real reason for sparing a couple of braces? Any good TeX editor will supply the braces as soon as you enter ^. Adding them always will save you from head scratching when something goes wrong.

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