Best Practices For Brace Usage In Latex Bibtex Titles

When to Use Braces

Braces are required around LaTeX commands and special characters in BibTeX entry titles to prevent formatting and capitalization issues. Braces protect accents, math symbols, and formatting commands like italics from being incorrectly parsed or capitalized.

For example, an accented character like é would be incorrectly capitalized to É without braces. A math expression like $x^2$ would render as part of the title text instead of as a math expression. Braces around these elements allow them to be processed correctly.

Braces required for titles containing LaTeX commands

Any LaTeX commands present in the title must be wrapped in braces to be processed properly. This includes formatting commands like \textit or \textbf for italics and bold, as well as math expressions like $x+y$. Without braces, LaTeX will not recognize these commands and they will appear as normal text.

Braces protect special characters like accents and math symbols

Accented letters and math symbols will not display correctly unless they are enclosed in braces. An unbraced é will be capitalized to É in the rendered bibliography. Math symbols like $x^2$ will render as normal text instead of as math expressions. The braces signal to BibTeX that these characters should be handled in a special way.

Braces prevent capitalization and formatting issues

Capitalization and formatting can become incorrect without braces due to BibTeX treating commands and special characters as normal text. Braces ensure that only the normal title text is capitalized or reformatted, while the LaTeX code within the braces is passed through unchanged.

Braces Around Common LaTeX Commands

Formatting commands (e.g. {\itshape italics})

Formatting commands like \textit or \textbf should always be braced. The braces protect the formatting from being overridden or capitalized incorrectly. For example, {\itshape italics} remains fully lower case and keeps the italics formatting.

Math expressions (e.g. $x^2$)

Math expressions must be enclosed in $ signs and braces for proper rendering. For example, the math expression ${\$x^2\$}$ would be processed correctly as $x^2$. Without braces, the $ signs would appear as normal text in the rendered title.

Accented characters (e.g. {\`a})

Accents and related symbols should always be braced to prevent capitalization errors. For example, {\`a} would remain a lower case à, while an unbraced \`a would become capital À.

Handling Capitalization

Capitalization affected without braces

BibTeX capitalizes title text according to defined capitalization styles. Unbraced accents, symbols, and commands will be incorrectly capitalized along with the normal text. Proper nouns and formatting might also be unintentionally capitalized.

Braces preserve intended capitalization

Enclosing LaTeX commands, math expressions, accents, and special symbols in braces preserves their original capitalization. Only normal title text outside the braces follows capitalization rules. This prevents undesired and incorrect capitalization of proper formatting and nouns.

Formatting Issues Without Braces

Missing spaces around commands

Without braces, BibTeX may omit spaces immediately before or after commands. This causes incorrect rendering, like two words being joined together. Braces avoid this by treating the LaTeX code as a distinct unit separated from the normal text.

Command arguments separated incorrectly

Some multi-part LaTeX commands rely on correct argument separation. Missing braces can cause BibTeX to incorrectly combine the argument parts, leading to errors. Braces ensure arguments remain discrete units for proper parsing.

Recommended Practices

Enclose all LaTeX in braces

As a general rule, enclose any LaTeX commands present in the title in braces. This guarantees correct parsing and rendering. While braces may not always be strictly required, including them ensures robustness.

Ensure braces balance

Every opening brace must have a matched closing brace. Unbalanced braces lead to formatting and parsing errors. Check that all curly brace pairs match when inserting LaTeX into BibTeX titles.

Use braces even for short or common commands

Consistently use braces, even for short, common commands like \textit. Although BibTeX may sometimes parse these correctly without braces, failing to use braces can produce inconsistencies and errors.

Example BibTeX Entries

Book title with math: {\$x^2\$}

Enclose the math expression $x^2$ in braces to ensure it will be rendered properly as math content. The braces preserve spacing and delimit the expression as a unit.

Article title with accents: {Accentu\’e}

Accented letters like é should always be enclosed in braces in titles to prevent capitalization errors. Here, the é in Accentué will remain miniscule as originally intended.

Inproceedings with formatting: {\textit{Italicized Title}}

The \textit command requires braces in order for the italics formatting to be applied to the enclosed title text. Without braces, title text would appear in normal typeface.

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