# Error \item invalid in math mode in memoir

I am using the memoir class and was getting a huge variety of errors. Each time I tried to fix one, another one came up. Now i am getting "\item invalid in math mode". I have no idea how I got into math mode or how to get out. It's driving me nuts and I'm too tired to think more. This is part of a book project but here is an MWE:

Main file

\documentclass{memoir}
\title{Interesting words}
\author{Peter Flom}
% \usepackage{hyperref}
\usepackage[marginpar]{todo}
\usepackage{url}
\usepackage{varioref}
%\let\providelength\relax
%\usepackage{dialogue}

%% A convenience command, for typesetting the
%% word and pronunciation

%\newcommand{\entry}[2]{\medskip\noindent{\Large\textbf{#1} (#2)\par}}
\newcommand{\entry}[2]{\medskip\noindent{\Large\textbf{#1} \normalsize{#2} \par}}

\newcommand{\sclabel}[1]{\normalfont\scshape #1}

%% Less spacing around lists
\firmlists

\begin{document}

To do list
\begin{itemize}
\item Add cover, title page and so on.
\item Add more example sentences to USAGE including writing possible contemporary uses
\item Add more personal reasons why I love a word or where I found it, also more personal examples
\item Look at more about the frequency of the word, try to note why there was a peak
\item Move Misc words to other chapters as possible
\item Write reviews of sources on Amazon
\item Write to authors of sources
\item Add section at end of each chapter using some of the words in it
\item Divide the longest chapters
\item Consistency
\begin{itemize}
\item Etymology -- foreign lang in italics, English in parens., neither capitalized
\item Make sure there is a part of speech on each word and italicize it
\item Make lists of definitions consistent using enumerate
\item Order of sections: Def., etymology, anti-t, usage, examples,  frequency.  (Only anti-T is optional)
\end{itemize}
\item Go through LaTeX warnings.

\end{itemize}

\vspace{1in}

Questions for Nelsie or others
\begin{itemize}
\item Grammar questions
\begin{itemize}
\item Italicization of parts of speech
\item Period at end of items on a list
\end{itemize}
\item Ideas for selecting which words to include
\item How long (approx) should the final book be?
\end{itemize}

\include{PeopleTest}
\end{document}


and the other file

 \chapter{Words describing people}\label{C:People}
\epigraphwidth 3.5in
\epigraphrule 0pt
\epigraph{%
I will tell you why; so shall my anticipation prevent your discovery, and your secrecy to the King and queene: moult no feather. I have of late, (but wherefore I know not) lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition; that this goodly frame the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy the air, look you, this brave o'er hanging firmament, this majestical roof, fretted with golden fire: why, it appeareth no other thing to me, than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is man, How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, In form and moving how express and admirable, In action how like an Angel, In apprehension how like a god, The beauty of the world, The paragon of animals. And yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me; no, nor Woman neither; though by your smiling you seem to say so}{%
\textit{Hamlet, II, ii} \\William Shakespeare}

One of the biggest subjects of our speech and writing is people - ourselves and others. English is full of words to describe people. Some are common -- those aren't here. Some are so specialized that there is almost no use for them -- those aren't here either. But then there are words that describe people we run into every day -- but the word is less common than the people. Even if you aren't abulic, I'm sure you know someone who is. And while, by their nature, apanthropic people are less known than most, they are still out there. And so are the words. We should start using them.

\newpage
\entry{Abulia}{Rhymes with ma boo lee uh.} \label{Abulia}%On Medium %From Byrne PSY
\begin{flexlabelled}{sclabel}{0pt}{0.5em}{0.5em}{*}{\leftmargin}
\item[Definition]
\textit{n.} An abnormal inability to make decisions. The adjectival form is abulic.
\item[Etymology]
Per Merriam Webster, the term was introduced into English from German, where it was used by Dr. J. C. A. Heinroth. Heinroth used Greek letters for abulia, suggesting that he may have borrowed it from Greek. There is a Greek word boule, meaning will'', adding to the notion that it comes from Greek, but there are conflicting sources on whether the word abulia itself is Greek. MW cites a New Latin word abulia, but I couldn't find other sources -- two Latin dictionaries made no mention of it.
\item[Usage]
The extreme example of abulia is Buridan's ass -- a hypothetical donkey that is equally hungry and thirsty and is placed midway between a bucket of water and a stack of hay, but dies of hunger and thirst. But there are people who are abulic and not hypothetical at all. See hypobulia \vpageref{Hypobulia}.
\item[Example]
\epigraphwidth 3.5in
\epigraphrule 0pt
\epigraph{%
My nerves'' are a very mild affair, due to an aboulie and emotional derangement which has been a lifelong affliction.}{%
\textit{Wasteland Drafts \\ xxii} \\T. S. Eliot}

\item[Anti-thesaurus]
\begin[description]
\item[Indecisiveness] -- abulia  emphasizes an abnormal level of indecisiveness. Indeed, a medical definition of abulia states that it is characteristic of certain neurotic or psychotic conditions.''
\end[description]
\item[Frequency]
Per Google ngram viewer, abulia is about 1 in 50 million words; abulic is even rarer -- about 1 in 300 million
words.
\end{flexlabelled} \vspace{0.5in}

• This is just a typo: you have \begin[description]...\end[description]. You need braces {} not square brackets. []. The reason you get the error is the \[ and \begin[ are equivalent and put you into math mode. Jun 1 '20 at 1:45
• Thanks. That fixed that. Now I am getting different errors but I'll look again in the morning. Jun 1 '20 at 1:54

It seems to me that sometimes you use \cmd[...] whereas it should be \cmd{...}, but not always. I have tried changing the [...] to {...} in various places in your MWE and have got what I think is a better result (at least no LaTeX complaints).

% memitemprob.tex SE 547288

\documentclass{memoir}
\title{Interesting words}
\author{Peter Flom}
% \usepackage{hyperref}
\usepackage[marginpar]{todo}
\usepackage{url}
\usepackage{varioref}
%\let\providelength\relax
%\usepackage{dialogue}

%% A convenience command, for typesetting the
%% word and pronunciation

%\newcommand{\entry}[2]{\medskip\noindent{\Large\textbf{#1} (#2)\par}}
\newcommand{\entry}[2]{\medskip\noindent{\Large\textbf{#1} \normalsize{#2} \par}}

\newcommand{\sclabel}[1]{\normalfont\scshape #1}

%% Less spacing around lists
\firmlists

\begin{document}

To do list
\begin{itemize}
\item Add cover, title page and so on.
\item Add more example sentences to USAGE including writing possible contemporary uses
\item Add more personal reasons why I love a word or where I found it, also more personal examples
\item Look at more about the frequency of the word, try to note why there was a peak
\item Move Misc words to other chapters as possible
\item Write reviews of sources on Amazon
\item Write to authors of sources
\item Add section at end of each chapter using some of the words in it
\item Divide the longest chapters
\item Consistency
\begin{itemize}
\item Etymology -- foreign lang in italics, English in parens., neither capitalized
\item Make sure there is a part of speech on each word and italicize it
\item Make lists of definitions consistent using enumerate
\item Order of sections: Def., etymology, anti-t, usage, examples,  frequency.  (Only anti-T is optional)
\end{itemize}
\item Go through LaTeX warnings.

\end{itemize}

\vspace{1in}

Questions for Nelsie or others
\begin{itemize}
\item Grammar questions
\begin{itemize}
\item Italicization of parts of speech
\item Period at end of items on a list
\end{itemize}
\item Ideas for selecting which words to include
\item How long (approx) should the final book be?
\end{itemize}

\chapter{Words describing people}\label{C:People}
\epigraphwidth 3.5in
\epigraphrule 0pt
\epigraph{%
I will tell you why; so shall my anticipation prevent your discovery, and your secrecy to the King and queene: moult no feather. I have of late, (but wherefore I know not) lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition; that this goodly frame the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy the air, look you, this brave o'er hanging firmament, this majestical roof, fretted with golden fire: why, it appeareth no other thing to me, than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is man, How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, In form and moving how express and admirable, In action how like an Angel, In apprehension how like a god, The beauty of the world, The paragon of animals. And yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me; no, nor Woman neither; though by your smiling you seem to say so}{%
\textit{Hamlet, II, ii} \\William Shakespeare}

One of the biggest subjects of our speech and writing is people - ourselves and others. English is full of words to describe people. Some are common -- those aren't here. Some are so specialized that there is almost no use for them -- those aren't here either. But then there are words that describe people we run into every day -- but the word is less common than the people. Even if you aren't abulic, I'm sure you know someone who is. And while, by their nature, apanthropic people are less known than most, they are still out there. And so are the words. We should start using them.

\newpage
\entry{Abulia}{Rhymes with ma boo lee uh.} \label{Abulia}%On Medium %From Byrne PSY
\begin{flexlabelled}{sclabel}{0pt}{0.5em}{0.5em}{*}{\leftmargin}
%      \item[Definition]
\item{Definition}
\textit{n.} An abnormal inability to make decisions. The adjectival form is abulic.
\item{Etymology}]
%      \item[Etymology]
Per Merriam Webster, the term was introduced into English from German, where it was used by Dr. J. C. A. Heinroth. Heinroth used Greek letters for abulia, suggesting that he may have borrowed it from Greek. There is a Greek word boule, meaning will'', adding to the notion that it comes from Greek, but there are conflicting sources on whether the word abulia itself is Greek. MW cites a New Latin word abulia, but I couldn't find other sources -- two Latin dictionaries made no mention of it.
%      \item[Usage]
\item{Usage}
The extreme example of abulia is Buridan's ass -- a hypothetical donkey that is equally hungry and thirsty and is placed midway between a bucket of water and a stack of hay, but dies of hunger and thirst. But there are people who are abulic and not hypothetical at all. See hypobulia \vpageref{Hypobulia}.
%      \item[Example]
\item{Example}
\epigraphwidth 3.5in
\epigraphrule 0pt
\epigraph{%
My nerves'' are a very mild affair, due to an aboulie and emotional derangement which has been a lifelong affliction.}{%
\textit{Wasteland Drafts \\ xxii} \\T. S. Eliot}

\item[Anti-thesaurus]   \mbox{}
%       \item{Anti-thesaurus}
%      \begin[description]
\begin{description}
\item[Indecisiveness]
%         \item{Indeciseveness}
-- abulia  emphasizes an abnormal level of indecisiveness. Indeed, a medical definition of abulia states that it is characteristic of certain neurotic or psychotic conditions.''
%      \end[description]
\end{description}
\item[Frequency]
%      \item{Frequency}
Per Google ngram viewer, abulia is about 1 in 50 million words; abulic is even rarer -- about 1 in 300 million
words.
\end{flexlabelled} \vspace{0.5in}

% \include{PeopleTest}
\end{document}


Hope this helps, but check it out.

• Thanks! That may be it. Jun 5 '20 at 13:01