According to the table on page 170 of the TeXbook, binary operators like + and - get a medium space around them when in text or display style, but not in a script style. And they only get that space when acting as a binary operator: when acting as a unary operator (eg. -1) they get no space.

This is great.

However, I have defined a custom binary operator which needs slightly different spacing in script style. In all other styles the default spacing works well, and when my operator acts as a unary operator the default also works well.

But when my custom operator is acting as a binary operator in script style, it needs an additional 1mu of space on either side. How can I achieve this?

As a follow-up question, what if I wanted to make that change global, so it applies to all binary operators in script style, adding 1mu of space on each side?

  • Welcome to tex.sx. Nov 11, 2022 at 15:54
  • Please provide a minimal document that the community can use as a foundation to answer your question. It should show the default behaviour of a newly-defined, custom binary operator and show it in some environments where the spacing is okay, and where it's not. Can you do that? Helping the community helps getting you better answers.
    – Werner
    Nov 11, 2022 at 16:02
  • you can adjust the logic here in luatex but not in classic tex Nov 11, 2022 at 16:34

2 Answers 2


Regarding your first question, you can include the 1mu glue in your binary operator and compensate it with a -1mu glue in \nonscript mode:

\def\x{\mathbin x}
\def\y{\mathbin{\nonscript\mskip-1mu\mskip1mu x\nonscript\mskip-1mu\mskip1mu}}
a\x b = d_{a\x b}\cr
a\y b = d_{a\y b}\cr}

However, you must then always use \y as a binary operator and must use \x for the unary version.

enter image description here

Changing the behavior of all existing \mathbins (your second question) sounds like changing the TeX program.

  • Thanks for the idea. However, it appears that this approach adds the extra space even when it is used as a unary operator. That is, d_{\y b} puts unwanted space before and after the x.
    – NevinBR
    Nov 11, 2022 at 16:41
  • Yes, I overlooked that and have augmented my answer. Nov 11, 2022 at 16:46

If you are using LuaTeX then you can set the spacing for each pair of math atoms and for each math style individually. Your task: "to set 1mu around all binary operators in scriptstyle" can be set by:


See the section 7.5.2 of the LuaTeX manual for more information.


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