I am surprised that everybody seems happy with the size of the minus sign when it is used to negate a quantity.

The minus sign has two different yet related functions: subtraction and negation. When you use it as a subtraction binary operator as in $3-4$ of $f-g$ it looks perfect, the minus sign is as wide as the plus sing in $3+4$. When you write $3+(-4)$ or $x^{-n}$ it looks way too big (especially in the exponent).


Note that TeX (or LaTeX?) correctly reduces the spacing when it believes we use the unary negation operator but does not change the symbol to a shorter one. TeX and LaTeX are systems that put a lot of effort in correct spacing and sizing, I am surprised people are happy with the current situation of the negative sign. I have found the following discussion here: Is there a designated symbol for the negative sign in, say, -16? but the proposed solution textminus does not work in math mode and siunitx does not seem to be part of the standard package distributions anymore and other solutions are more like hacks.

  • 1
    siunitx is in every tex system. – Ulrike Fischer Oct 18 '20 at 13:13
  • 2
    The two symbols denote exactly the same thing, so they're obviously the same. An expression such as ab is defined as a + (−​ b). – egreg Oct 18 '20 at 13:25
  • If your main concern is with the size of -1 exponent term when it's used to denote the inverse of some object, have a look at Matrix Inverse symbol. – Mico Oct 18 '20 at 14:20
  • 2
    it is not really a tex/latex decision: neither unicode nor standard math fonts have a distinguished symbol for unary minus. TeX can only use what is in the fonts. In some educational contexts (in the UK at least) negative numbers are denotes as $^{-}2$ to distinguish them from $0-2$ but I don't see that other than school level introductions to negative numbers. – David Carlisle Oct 18 '20 at 16:12
  • Thank you @Mico unfortunately their solution are not what I am looking for. – Arnaud Oct 18 '20 at 20:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.