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This may have an answer somewhere else, I have not found any. I apologize if it is a duplicate.

The TeXBook recommends to add \/ after italicized words in order to adjust the spacing with roman text that comes afterwards. E.g. {\it italicized\/} is cool looks better than just {\it italicized} is cool. An analogous problem occurs before italicized text, especially when the latter starts with an upper case letter. An example:

Thesis: {\it Italicized text}. In this case the I in Italicized is skew, so there seems to be a lot of space between the colon and the I.

Thesis:\ {\it Italicized text} seems to be a correct way to adjust the spacing.

I suppose at the end of the day this is matter of personal taste, but is there any particular convention on this?

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  • Yes, I am talking about plain TeX. Is the second option considered to be better than the first one?
    – Gibbs
    Nov 30, 2023 at 16:13
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    Not really it just accidentally does something. It makes a smaller space (unless you have \frenchspacing when it makes no change) but the space difference is unrelated to the italc slant, if you want to adjust it would be more natural to add a negative kern picked according to the italic font, just as \/ add a font specific positive kern. Nov 30, 2023 at 16:16

1 Answer 1

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\ isn't really the right command here, it happens to make a smaller space as you are not using \frenchspacing so there is normally a larger space after: which this supresses, but the reduction is unrelated to the font slant. If the last upright character was not an end of sentence punctuation (M here) you may want a similar adjustment but \ would do nothing.

\fontdimen1 of the italic font is the slant per pt, so this defines a command that adds a negative kern depending on this. The value ought to depend on the font size, but I'm assuming 10pt here, for plain tex.


\def\negitalcorr{\kern-5\fontdimen1\font}%
% 5 arbitrarily half of 10pt nominal size
% if you are using some font selection macros over plain
%  you may have a font size parameter to hand.

Thesis: {\it Italicized text}.

Thesis:\ {\it Italicized text}.

Thesis: {\it\negitalcorr Italicized text}.

ThesisM {\it Italicized text}.

ThesisM\ {\it Italicized text}.

ThesisM {\it\negitalcorr Italicized text}.

\bye
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  • Good anaysis. An ideal italics font (I know of none, not even my own) slants characters relative to something such as half the lowercase x-height, rather than relative to the baseline. So, the lowest part of each glyph is actually shifted slightly to the left. Without this, the italics gaps are more prominent. Nothing to do with TeX specifically.
    – rallg
    Nov 30, 2023 at 16:45
  • This problem is true of metal type as well, and can be seen most easily at the left margin of all-italic paragraphs, if a line begins with v, w, T, or another letter for which the baseline position is indented on the upright form. Nov 30, 2023 at 18:55

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