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LaTeX Special Characters

A Note on Whitespace

White-space refers to any blank space on a page. This can be a single space, a page of space, a tab length of space, and so on. Many programs do not read white-space unless they are told to do so, and this is true for LaTeX. LaTeX must be told to do paragraph breaks, tabs, and any other type of white-spacing other than a single space. LaTeX commands tell LaTeX to read additional white-space.

The special characters below can be made using the \ or the verbatim command: \verb*SYMBOLHERE*

Special Characters

There are ten keyboard characters which have special meaning in LaTeX, and cannot be used on their own except for these purposes.
Key-CharacterMeaningIf you need this character, type this:
\The command character$\backslash$
$Math typesetting delimiter\$
%The comment character\%
^Math superscript character\^
^Actual carrot\verb*^*
&Tabular column separator\&
_Math superscript character\_
~Non-breaking space; to put the tilda over a letter\verb*~*jdoe
~Actual tilda character*~*
#Macro parameter symbol\#
{Argument start delimiter$\{$
}Argument end delimiter$\}$

Quotation Marks

LaTeX requires the correct use of directional quotation marks. So for double quotes, two ` are needed to open the quote and two ' are needed to close the quote. The opening single quote ` is on the Sun terminals above the backspace key and above the left tab key (in the far left corner) on most other computer keyboards. The closing quote mark ' is same as the apostrophe key.

The Emacs program, which is available on the Sun terminals and can be accessed via the shell, can interpret the double quote marks and can correctly assign the direction for the quotes. Because of this, you can ignore the above notes on quotation marks when using Emacs. For later ease, it might be most efficient to either install Emacs on your home computer or to learn the single quote marks correctly based on how you will most often use the program.

Accents and Special Characters

Accents and special characters are made using your computer operating system's standard ALT or CTRL key combinations to generate accented letters. On the Sun terminal keyboards, special characters are made by typing a combination of keys with the compose key (which is below the SHIFT key on the right side of the keyboard).

List of Special Characters for the Sun Terminals.

List of special characters in HTML.

To use accents and special characters in LaTeX, LaTeX first needs to know what input type is being used (or the command entry must be used, see below). For LaTeX to understand the codes for ISO Latin-1 (ISO 8559-1), type:

The command entry of special characters and accents allows for additional accents or special characters. This is an easier choice if you use multiple computers, which may have different packages installed, or if you switch between different operating systems. To use the the command mode, type: backslash mark character. For instance, to create , type:

If using this method only, the inputenc package is not needed.

C. Sean Bohun