Writing Caveats

Commonly, I see these mistakes again and again. I’m trying to compile them to avoid its widespread use.


  • Always number your display equations. That is, use the \begin{equation} and \end{equation} (and similar) environment to display them. Remember that you may not refer to them but others will.

  • Always wrap a multi-letter variable within a \mathit or \text macro. The former will display an italicized version of the variable, while the latter will display text. If you do not do it you will be multiplying the single letter variables on the intended word. I.e., instead of saying abc you will be saying a times b times c.

  • All your variables should be explained and be consistent. That is, they shouldn’t change meaning throughout the document. Perhaps, the only exception is index variables that may be drawn from different sets or have different boundaries. But even then, they remain indexes.

  • Avoid linebreaks on inline math by augmenting the penalty for them. Try to avoid hard solutions like \mbox or {} around the inline math or NBS within the math. Instead prefer \relpenalty=10000 and \binoppenalty=10000. I suggest using 9999 instead to allow extreme cases.

  • Do not start sentences with a symbol (e.g., variable, function, etc.).

  • Your quantities that represent numbers should be in math mode. While numbers that do not represent a quantity should be in text mode.


  • Latin abbreviations are different, and not interchangeable
    • Id est (i.e.) use as “that is” or “in other words”
    • Exampli gratia (e.g.) use as “for example” or “for instance”
    • Et alii (masculine), et aliae (feminine), and et alia (neutral) (et al.) use when citing more than three authors on a publication and means “and others.” Note that the word “et” is not abbreviated and as such does not need a period after it.
    • Confer (cf.) use as “compare”


  • Citations are not words. It is a common mistake to use them as a noun-phrase. They are not. Always place a word or noun-phrase that is a reference to your citation. Remember that the style may change, and they can appear as superscripts. In that case, what would you do?

    Your citation may look like: The results as shown in ³, while you wanted to say The results as shown in previous work³ or previous work [3], depending on the style used.

  • Double-check the source and type of publication. If you have an arXiv paper double-check that it wasn’t published somewhere. You should use the published venue over the arXiv for the reference. You can always link back to the arXiv in a note or URL.
  • When using natbib use the parenthetical \citep and in-text \citet correctly.

  • Name your references consistently. I recommend the format LastnameYYYY, where Lastname is the first author’s last name and YYYY is the year.

  • Use the bibstrings for the correct venues. I recommend journal list.

  • Check the warning outputs on after executing your bibliography (either bibtex or biber)
  • Use non-breaking spaces when writing with numerical citations. For instance, you need to cite Someone et al.~\cite{Someone2018}. However, when using author-year styles use the in-text references (\citet) for this type of examples. And when you are not mentioning the authors explicitly you can use the parenthetical version (\citep). In this case, you don’t want to use the non-breaking space since you don’t need it, e.g., this text said by someone smart before me \citep{Someone2018}, in contrast with a numerical style you want to have this text said by someone smart before me~\cite{Someone2018}. (Note the hard space and the citation macro.)


  • In English, the punctuation (commas, periods, and semicolons) go inside the closing quotation.
  • Footnote marks go after the punctuation, except on closing parentheses and dash, case in which it will precede it.
  • The hyphen (-) is used to join words, the n-dash (--) is used to make ranges, and the m-dash (---) is used as commas or parentheses to enhance the readability of parenthetical content.
  • The m-dash uses the same spaces as parentheses or none at all. Do not mix both styles. Choose one throughout the text.
  • The m-dash can be used as a colon too. In that case, it opens the parenthetical phrase, and it is closed with a period.
  • In LaTeX you use special open (``) and closing ('') quote marks.

Floating Elements

  • Do not anchor your floating elements with h, H, or ! LaTeX options. Put them on top or bottom of the page ([tb]) instead. The flow of the reading gets broken when you place the floating elements in the middle of the text.

  • In general, place the table’s caption above it, and for figures below them. Unless, the style you are using states otherwise. A nice discussion regarding this placement can be found in TeX Stackexchange.

Non-Breaking Spaces

  • The idea of non-breaking spaces (~) is to maintain pieces in a word that should be together. Commonly they appear in compound words or phrases. The objective of it is to insert a “space” that is actually a character and will make LaTeX not to break it like with common spaces.
  • Use NBS in compound names, for instance Section~2, Table~1, Figure~3. Each of those is not two words, but rather one. The same holds for their abbreviations.
  • Use it to keep citations on numerical styles together at the end of sentences. Instead of having a citation [42] float at the end of the sentence you join it with the previous word.
  • Do not use NBS with parenthetical citations, they are already a set of words and do not need to be held together, unlike the numerical ones.
  • You don’t want to create trains of words unnecessarily. So, Joe Someone~\cite{Someone2018} is excellent, but Joe~Someone~\cite{Someone2018} is not. As well, and the list is 2, 3, and~5 is fine but the list~4,~5,~and~6 is not. Note that you can glue is and 2 on the former example. However, it is not needed as the list will continue all together on the next sentence which makes it easy to understand. On the contrary, the numerical citations are not words and as such will be strange to be alone at the beginning of the next line.


  • In your papers, you discuss things that are in Table X or in Fig. 1.


  • Use a pattern to identify your LaTeX labels. For instance,
    • sec:label to mark sections
    • eq:label to mark equations
    • fig:label to mark figures
    • tab:label to mark tables

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