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In mathematical mode characters are spaced as if they were part of a single word, regardless of the actual space you insert. This article explains how to insert spaces of different lengths in mathematical mode.

Contents

[edit] Introduction

Spacing in maths mode is useful in several situations, let's see an example:

Assume we have the next sets
\[
S = \{ z \in \mathbb{C}\, |\, |z| < 1 \} \quad \textrm{and} \quad S_2=\partial{S}
\]

SpacingMathEx1.png

As you see in this example, a mathematical text can be explicitly spaced by means of some special commands

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[edit] Spaces

The spacing depends on the command you insert, the example below contains a complete list of spaces and how they look like.

Spaces in mathematical mode.
 
\begin{align*}
f(x) =& x^2\! +3x\! +2 \\
f(x) =& x^2+3x+2 \\
f(x) =& x^2\, +3x\, +2 \\
f(x) =& x^2\: +3x\: +2 \\
f(x) =& x^2\; +3x\; +2 \\
f(x) =& x^2\ +3x\ +2 \\
f(x) =& x^2\quad +3x\quad +2 \\
f(x) =& x^2\qquad +3x\qquad +2
\end{align*}

SpacingMathEx2.png

Check the reference guide for a description of the commands.

Note: to see a description of the align* environment see Aligning equations with amsmath

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[edit] Operators spacing

Spacing around operators and relations in math mode are governed by specific skip lengths:

  • \thinmuskip (by default it is equal to 3 mu)
  • \medmuskip (by default it is equal to 4 mu)
  • \thickmuskip (by default it is equal to 5 mu)

\begin{align*}
3ax+4by=5cz\\
3ax<4by+5cz
\end{align*}

SpacingMathEx3.png

For relationnal operators, such as < , > and =, LaTeX establishes \thickmuskip space. But for binary operators such as +, - and x, the \medmuskip space is set. The difference is almost unnoticeable.

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[edit] User-defined binary and relational operators

You can force the spacing used in binary or relational operators, so you can define your own.

\begin{align*}
34x^2a \mathbin{\#} 13bc \\
34x^2a \mathrel{\#} 13bc
\end{align*}

SpacingMathEx4.png

The previous example sets a particular spacing before and after # by using \mathrel (relational) and \mathbin (binary) commands.

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[edit] Reference guide

Description of spacing commands

LaTeX code Description
\quad space equal to the current font size (= 18 mu)
\, 3/18 of \quad (= 3 mu)
\: 4/18 of \quad (= 4 mu)
\; 5/18 of \quad (= 5 mu)
\! -3/18 of \quad (= -3 mu)
\ (space after backslash!) equivalent of space in normal text
\qquad twice of \quad (= 36 mu)

[edit] Further reading

For more information see