2.4.3 Special characters: \ { } % $ & _ ^ # ~

Besides ligatures (see previous section), a few individual characters have special meaning to LaTeX. They are called reserved characters or special characters. Here they are:


Introduces a command name, as seen throughout this manual.


Delimits a required argument to a command or a level of grouping, as seen throughout this manual.


Starts a comment: the ‘%’ and all remaining characters on the current line are ignored.


Starts and ends math mode (see Math formulas).


Separates cells in a table (see tabular).


Introduce a subscript or superscript, respectively, in math (see Subscripts & superscripts); they produce an error outside math mode. As a little-used special feature, two superscript characters in a row can introduce special notation for an arbitrary character.


Stands for arguments in a macro definition (see \newcommand & \renewcommand).


Produces a nonbreakable interword space (see ~, \nobreakspace).

See Printing special characters, for how to typeset these characters when you need them literally.

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