I am trying to understand a behavior where section headers assume the color of the first word in the section.

Here is my MWE:

                                    {1.3ex \@plus .5ex \@minus .2ex}%
                                    {-.5em \@plus -.1em}%
{\color{red} Hello there} More text

The desired outcome is for "Hello there" to be red but the rest of the text (including "First") to be black. However, "First" is red. If a word is inserted before "{\color" then the desired behavior occurs. What is going on here? The answer must be some basic fact about latex that I don't know.

Many thanks in advance.

  • 1
    Simply use \textcolor{red}{Hello there}
    – Bernard
    Mar 4, 2019 at 16:40
  • Thanks--it works. Why does it behave this way?
    – Zach Boyd
    Mar 4, 2019 at 16:41
  • No idea. Anyway, personally, I use the titlesec package for this sort of modifications to the defaults, and I don't think you'd have this sort of problem.
    – Bernard
    Mar 4, 2019 at 16:44
  • 2
    Without the negative vertical space the problem doesn't occur. (Just a debuging result to help you figuring out the problem... But I can't explain it... possibly this negative space says to latex to start coloring from the beginning of the line... If you knew a way to add the #1 argument of the section inside the command you could possibly solve the problem -that is the "why?"-)
    – koleygr
    Mar 4, 2019 at 16:54
  • That is very interesting--definitely a useful lead.
    – Zach Boyd
    Mar 4, 2019 at 16:55

1 Answer 1


First, let say that the issue have nothing to do with the definition of \section. So the problem is not here, but in using \color{red}... instead of \textcolor{red}{...}.

Here is a MWE that replicate the issue


{\color{red}Bar} bla bla


When the fifth argument of \@startsection is negatif the heading is prepended to the paragraph of following text with the \everypar command. The command \everypar is executed in horizontal mode i.e. when TeX see the character H in Hello, but at this moment is too late and the color change is already done. Here is another exemple


\everypar{Foo \everypar{}}
{\color{red}\ifvmode\hrule\vskip1cm\fi Bar} bla bla

The solution is to use \textcolor{red}{...} or \leavevmode{\color{red}...}.

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