# Align equations as if first term has operator (+ or -) in front

I have a set of equations I'd like to align. Below is what it looks like now, but I'd prefer if I could have the first term after each equal sign align with the terms below, ignoring the operator below. This is the code I'm using for the equation above:

\begin{align}
\ell
={}
&  \mu_0 - y_0 \log \mu_0\\
&+ \mu_b - y_b \log \mu_b\\
&+ \mu_r - y_r \log \mu_r\\
&+ \mu_{br} - y_{br} \log \mu_{br}\\[4pt]
={}
&  \pi_0 U - y_0 \log \left( \pi_0 U \right)\\
&+ \pi_b U d_b - y_b \log \left( \pi_b U d_b\right)\\
&+ \pi_r U d_r - y_r \log \left( \pi_r U d_r \right) \\
&+ \pi_{br} U d_b d_r - y_{br} \log \left( \pi_{br} U d_b d_r \right) \\[4pt]
={}
&  \left(\pi_0 + \pi_b d_b + \pi_r d_r + \pi_{br} d_b d_r\right) U \\
&- (y_0 + y_b + y_r + y_{br}) \log U \\
&- y_0 \log \pi_0 \\
&- y_b \log \left( \pi_b d_b \right) \\
&- y_r \log \left( \pi_r d_r \right) \\
&- y_{br} \log \left( \pi_{br} d_b d_r \right) \\
\end{align}


I'd like it to look like the image below (achieved with some image editing): I've tried adding a \phantom{+} in front of the first terms, and this does add some spacing, but it doesn't align correctly.

What's the best way to get the alignment I'm looking for?

• \mathbin{\phantom{+}} would be the construction, but I'd go with the first version. Never use ; around align they're even wronger. – egreg Oct 19 at 19:33 • Perfect! That does it! And yes, I admit that I might have slightly demented taste for alignment :) – AJ Friend Oct 19 at 19:45 • The  is just because the snippet is from writing TeX within a markdown document. – AJ Friend Oct 19 at 19:47
• I suspected that; remove them nonetheless. – egreg Oct 19 at 19:48

You can use \mathbin{\vphantom{+}}, so the object will behave in everything like a +.

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{amsmath}

\begin{document}
\begin{align}
\ell={}
&\mathbin{\phantom{+}}  \mu_0 - y_0 \log \mu_0\\
&+ \mu_b - y_b \log \mu_b\\
&+ \mu_r - y_r \log \mu_r\\
&+ \mu_{br} - y_{br} \log \mu_{br}\\[4pt]
={}
&\mathbin{\phantom{+}}  \pi_0 U - y_0 \log ( \pi_0 U )\\
&+ \pi_b U d_b - y_b \log ( \pi_b U d_b)\\
&+ \pi_r U d_r - y_r \log ( \pi_r U d_r ) \\
&+ \pi_{br} U d_b d_r - y_{br} \log ( \pi_{br} U d_b d_r ) \\[4pt]
={}
&\mathbin{\phantom{+}}  (\pi_0 + \pi_b d_b + \pi_r d_r + \pi_{br} d_b d_r) U \\
&- (y_0 + y_b + y_r + y_{br}) \log U \\
&- y_0 \log \pi_0 \\
&- y_b \log ( \pi_b d_b ) \\
&- y_r \log ( \pi_r d_r ) \\
&- y_{br} \log ( \pi_{br} d_b d_r )
\end{align}

\end{document} However, I like this like a punch in the eye, even if we remove all numbers, which I suspect you don't actually want, because the code is supposed to be fed to MathJax. I checked and it works also there.

Note that I removed all the \left and \right tokens, whose only effect in this case is to add unwanted spaces.

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{amsmath}

\begin{document}

\begin{align*}
\ell&=
\mu_0 - y_0 \log \mu_0\\
&\qquad+ \mu_b - y_b \log \mu_b\\
&\qquad+ \mu_r - y_r \log \mu_r\\
&\qquad+ \mu_{br} - y_{br} \log \mu_{br}\\[4pt]
&=
\pi_0 U - y_0 \log ( \pi_0 U )\\
&\qquad+ \pi_b U d_b - y_b \log ( \pi_b U d_b)\\
&\qquad+ \pi_r U d_r - y_r \log ( \pi_r U d_r ) \\
&\qquad+ \pi_{br} U d_b d_r - y_{br} \log ( \pi_{br} U d_b d_r ) \\[4pt]
&=
(\pi_0 + \pi_b d_b + \pi_r d_r + \pi_{br} d_b d_r) U \\
&\qquad- (y_0 + y_b + y_r + y_{br}) \log U \\ 