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19.6 Backslash-space, \

This section refers to the command consisting of two characters, a backslash followed by a space.
Synopsis:

\ 

Produce a space. By default it produces white space of length 3.33333pt plus 1.66666pt minus 1.11111pt.

When you type one or more blanks between words, LaTeX produces white space. But that is different than an explicit space. This illustrates.

\begin{tabular}{rl}
One blank:& makes some space \\
Three blanks:&   in a row \\
Three spaces:&\ \ \ in a row \\
\end{tabular}

On the first line LaTeX puts some space after the colon. On the second line LaTeX collapses the three blanks to output one whitespace, so you end with the same space after the colon as in the first line. LaTeX would similarly collapse them to a single whitespace if one, two or all of the three blanks were replaced by a tab, or by a newline. However, the bottom line asks for three spaces so the white area is wider. That is, the backslash-space command creates a fixed amount of horizontal space. (Note that you can define a horizontal space of any width at all with \hspace; see \hspace.)

The backslash-space command has two main uses. It is often used after control sequences to keep them from gobbling the blank that follows, as after \TeX in \TeX\ (or \LaTeX). (But using curly braces has the advantage of still working whether the next character is a blank or any other non-letter, as in \TeX{} (or \LaTeX{}) in which {} can be added after \LaTeX as well as after \TeX.) The other common use is that it marks a period as ending an abbreviation instead of ending a sentence, as in Prof.\ Smith or Jones et al.\ (1993) (see \@).

Under normal circumstances, \TAB and \NEWLINE are equivalent to backslash-space, \ .

Please also note that in order to allow source code indentation, under normal circumstances, TeX ignores leading blanks in a line. So the following prints ‘one word’:

one
 word

where the white space between ‘one’ and ‘word’ is produced by the newline after ‘one’, not by the space before ‘word’.


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