I am new to LaTeX and keep having this re-occurring problem. I create a table and notice a mistake (incorrectly specifying the number of columns or something) because the pdf won't compile (I am using 'pdfLaTeX'). I stop the compilation and fix the table. When I try to re-run the pdf I get the error message:

Runaway argument?
{\contentsline {subsection}{\numberline {6.3}General comments o 
! File ended while scanning use of \@writefile.
<inserted text> 
l.47 \begin{document}

Once this happens no matter what I do the pdf won't run and the .synctex.gz file is 'busy'. I have to copy and paste all my (corrected) code into a new TeX works file and then it re-runs fine! I suspect it has something to do with the fact that LaTeX is still thinking about the erroneous table. How can I completely break the compilation process and stop this from happening?

  • 9
    Delete your temporary files and compile once more. Which Editor and TeX distribution do you use?
    – Mensch
    Aug 6 '12 at 3:43
  • 1
    also, please post the concerned lines from the .tex file. Aug 6 '12 at 4:49
  • 1
    You can delete (most) temporary files from within TeXworks: File --> Delete auxiliary files. Aug 6 '12 at 7:12
  • 5
    I made some tests with TeXworks on miktex 2.9. Imho it is not advisable to use the large button "stop prozess" (or however it is called in the english version). It simply kills the process and quite a lot files are not correctly closed. E.g. I don't get a log-file. When you get an error type "x" (the cursor should already be in the line at the bottom) and then hit "enter". This should close the files correctly. Aug 6 '12 at 8:26
  • I suggest forget to repair, just open another fire to do thing from the very begining! I use resizebox{7.5cm}{3cm} to control my table size in beamer. And this 7.5cm cause your problem....Sometimes, we should not foucs on the bs error message and do things from the very begining again.
    – Travis
    Mar 10 '20 at 15:13

You have 3 options:

  1. As Ulrike points out, you should stop the compilation by typing x into the command line at the very bottom.

  2. Delete .toc and .aux files after an incomplete compilation (There's a button File->Delete Temporary Files in TeXworks, as Torbjørn points out.

  3. Type q into the command line in TeXworks whenever this error at \begin{document} appears. The compilation will continue in a strange mode, but the next compilation should be ok.

  • 4
    In my experience, you can also simply press enter when receiving this error, and the compilation will proceed normally assuming you do not have any "real" errors. Jun 30 '15 at 1:39
  • what is this error caused by? Aug 15 '16 at 12:10
  • @yo' I have also a Runaway definition problem. I tried this solution but failed. My preamble is here paste.ubuntu.com/26318191
    – alhelal
    Jan 4 '18 at 9:04
  • And here is another good write-up of the same problem, with a more detailed explanation. Sep 25 '18 at 23:54
  • But how to fix it in a way that deleting aux files are not needed? I also have this now (needing to delete aux files always after some error, to be able to continue), but I did not have the problem earlier (never needed to delete aux files). Unfortunately I have no idea what exactly caused this.
    – Albert
    Jan 12 '20 at 15:23

If the problem with Overleaf, then see the below link.

Runaway argument?

This is usually caused by a corrupted/incomplete .toc or other intermediate file, and is frequently a sign that your project is running into its compile timeout limit. You can first try to clear the intermediate files by clicking on the "Recompile from scratch" option at the bottom of the error message window.


In my experience, you should just stop the process and then delete the .aux file in the package. Then you compile the next time and it will be fine. Hope this answer can help you.

  • 1
    "Delete the .aux file in the package"? Not the package, surely... just the regular .aux.
    – Werner
    Mar 17 '16 at 6:48

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