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I find the spacing between the word it refers to and the footnote call a bit too large. Is there a way to reduce it ?

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Please always post a complete small document that shows the problem and all classes/packages used. The layout of the footnote marking is under the control of the document class, and you haven't said which you are using.

however the default definition is

\def\@makefnmark{\hbox{\@textsuperscript{\normalfont\@thefnmark}}}

So you could have

\makeatletter
\renewcommand\@makefnmark{%
  \hbox{\hspace{-.1em}\@textsuperscript{\normalfont\@thefnmark}}}
\makeatother

or whatever negative space you want. Note there is no space added by default so any negative space has the potential to make the footnote mark over-print the preceding text.

@tohecz suggests in comments that you have gone

word \footnote{this} or word
\footnote{that}

In either case the space before the footnote mark is the word space entered into the document not coming from the macro. This again shows the importance of always posting a complete example. If you have spaces before your \footnote command do not redefine the command just remove the spaces and use

word\footnote{this} or word%
\footnote{that}
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  • I'm suspicious that there's an un-procented end-of-line before \footnote or after \footnote{, causing some extra space. – yo' Feb 25 '13 at 10:30
  • @tohecz ah good guess, I'll add a note expanding that – David Carlisle Feb 25 '13 at 10:31
  • @cristelle the redefinition or not putting in spaces? – David Carlisle Feb 25 '13 at 10:40
  • the redefinition. – cristelle Feb 25 '13 at 10:49
  • for more details, I use the book environment with no specific customisation of the footnotes, and of course, no suspicious space or linebreak before the footnote call. It's just an aesthetic appreciation, (maybe a French habit?) code n’ont plus cours\footnote{NDT : L’auteure ...}code – cristelle Feb 25 '13 at 10:57

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