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[LaTeX] Text Formatting

category: Writing | course: LaTeX | difficulty:

These first few chapters discussed very much the global workings and overall concepts in LaTeX, and now it’s finally time to look at the small details – formatting the actual words, sentences and paragraphs.

LaTeX performs a lot of guessing. It uses a set of typographic rules to guess what you wanted to say with your markup and determine the best layout. For example, by default:

  • Text is justified, which means spacing between words is slightly adjusted to make every sentence the exact same width. If LaTeX has to adjust word spacing too much, it will give a warning, but still compile correctly. If a line has too few words, it's an underfull box, if it has too many, it's an overfull box.
  • As another way to accomplish this, words at the end of the sentence are sometimes split into two. LaTeX, most of the time, knows where it can do this, and adds hyphens.
  • Orphans and widows are prevented. This means that it tries to never end or start a page with a single line, but keep paragraphs together.

Most of the times, LaTeX is right and everything looks great. But, sometimes you need something different or it doesn’t work out, and that’s when you can override and change this behaviour.

New Lines & Pages

By default, when you leave a blank line in your document, LaTeX starts new paragraph. This means that it indents the next line, without leaving vertical white space between the two paragraphs. If you don’t want that much empty lines in your document, you can do the same with the \par command.

There’ll also be times where you want to force a new line, without starting a new paragraph. This is done with \\ or \newline commands.

The star variation, \\*, prohibits a page break after the line break.

To start a new page (“hard return”), use \newpage.

This is the start of a paragraph. It's a very interesting paragraph full of wonderful details and facts.\par
Here another one starts\\Here we just start a new line within the same paragraph.
LatexNewLines

Instead of forcing breaks, you can also suggest LaTeX use them. The compiler then decides for itself when it’s best to follow or ignore your suggestions. For this, use these commands that suggest to (not) add a break:

\linebreak[n] \nolinebreak[n] \pagebreak[n] \nopagebreak[n]

Here, the argument n can be a number between 0 and 4, where 4 forces LaTeX to follow your suggestion, and 0 leaves it completely optional.

This is the start of a paragraph. It's a very interesting paragraph full of wonderful details and facts. \linebreak[2]
It just ignored our linebreak, oh noes! But, \LaTeX{} has a point, it would have looked awful. Well, then I'll just use the force. \linebreak[4]
Another line, yeah!
LatexNewLineSuggestions

Hyphenation

By setting a language for your document – which you’ll learn soon – LaTeX already knows how to hyphenate words. But, words you’ve invented yourself, or words with special characters, aren’t. For those, you can define how they should be hyphenated yourself.

To do so for every occurrence of the word in the document, use the \hyphenation{word list} command. The word list contains your words, separated by spaces, with hyphens between all syllables or points you allow the word to be broken apart.

% Latex does a best guess
This is the start of a paragraph. It's an interesting paragraph full of eekhoorntjes.

\hyphenation{eek-hoorn-tjes}
% Latex knows how to break it now
This is the start of a paragraph. It's an interesting paragraph full of eekhoorntjes.

%FYI: Eekhoorntjes is Dutch for small squirrels. 
LatexHyphenation

If you only need to perform this on a single word, you can use \-, which inserts a discretionary hyphen – it only displays if needed.

If you desperately want to keep several words together, use \mbox{text} or \fbox{text}. They do the same, but the latter draws a box around the content.

This is the start of a paragraph. It's an interesting paragraph full of \mbox{eekhoorntjes}.

\hyphenation{eek-hoorn-tjes}
This is the start of a paragraph. It's an interesting paragraph full of \fbox{eekhoorntjes}.
LatexMboxFbox

Dashes

Four types of dashes are known to LateX.

Character

Visual

Description

Name

-

-

inter-word

hyphen

--

page range

en-dash

---

punctuation dash

em-dash

$-$

Minus sign

 

I, super-man, with rank $-1$ --- which seems bad, but is the highest rank --- will tell you my story on pages 5--10.
LatexAllHyphens

You can also produce the en-dash and em-dash with \textendash and \textemdash, respectively.

Word Spacing

By default, LaTeX inserts more space after a period that ends a sentence, than one that ends an abbreviation (which is, one that follows an uppercase letter). If you want to insert a space that can’t be enlarged or shrunk, use ~ (tilde character) instead.

If you want to signal that a period ends a sentence, even if the letter in front of it is uppercase, use \@ in front of it.

To be, or not to be. That is the question. \par
To be, or not to be.~That is the question. \\ \par

There's a good \LaTeX{} tutorial on the WWW. Don't you think? \par
There's a good \LaTeX{} tutorial on the WWW\@. Don't you think? \par
LatexWordSpacings

To turn off this type of spacing entirely for a certain part of the document, call \frenchspacing there.

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