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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.

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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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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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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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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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)

Further reading

For more information see

Overleaf guides

LaTeX Basics

Mathematics

Figures and tables

References and Citations

Languages

Document structure

Formatting

Fonts

Presentations

Commands

Field specific

Class files

Advanced TeX/LaTeX