LaTeX Help

What is LaTeX?

LaTeX (pronounced LAH-tek) is a document formatting program which is a descendant of TeX -- invented by Stanford University professor Donald Knuth. Its purpose is to permit high-quality representation of mathematical and other specialized notation in type form.

Most abstracts can be completed without additional LaTeX commands, but if you need to use Greek letters or most mathematical symbols, these must be done with LaTeX.

The most commonly used symbols are shown below. Many of these are done in "math mode," and consequently are started and ended with dollar signs ($).

If you are using multiple symbols in math mode, only one $ is needed before the entire string and one $ at the end of the string; i.e., $\alpha H_{2}O$.

"Reserved" Characters

Certain characters have special meaning in LaTeX. If you wish to include one or more of these characters in your abstract, use the appropriate command, given below, to "turn off" the special meaning.

Character Command
# \#
$ \$
% \%
& \&
~ \~
_ \_
^ \^
{ \{
} \}
> $>$
< $<$
\ $\backslash$

Note: Don't use "\~" to display the symbol that means "approximately." Instead, use $\sim$. For example, "The value of the number Pi is $\sim$ 3.1416.

Greek letters

All Greek letters must be surrounded by $ signs in order to display properly, e.g., $\pi$. Note that omicron is simply lower case "o".

Lower Case

\alpha \beta \gamma \delta \epsilon \zeta
\theta \eta \iota \kappa \lambda \mu
\nu \xi \pi \rho \sigma \tau
\upsilon \phi \chi \psi \omega

Upper Case

\Gamma \Delta \Theta \Lambda \Xi \Pi
\Sigma \Upsilon \Phi \Psi \Omega


The superscript command is $^{characters to be superscripted}$.

Example: the formula for the area of a circle is $\pi r^{2}$.

Note: The ^ (caret or "control") character is shift 6 on most keyboards. Whenever any command is used that starts with a backslash (\) and a dollar sign ($) does not immediately follow it, that command must be followed by a space to delineate the command; hence the space after the \pi above. That space will not appear in the final output; the formula will print contiguously.


The subscript command is $_{characters to be subscripted}$.

Example: the formula for water is H$_{2}$O.

Note: The _(underscore) character is shift - (hyphen) on most keyboards. The dollar sign ($) is shown here after the H; it may also precede it.


Footnotes should be generated with the footnote command rather than manually creating them with superscripts.

Example: LUNA was the source of several successful studies of critical reactions in pp-chains.\footnote{J. Doe, \textbf{Phy. Rev.} 161, 1500}

This will generate an automatically numbered footnote where the command is as well as place the footnote text at the bottom of the page. Note that footnotes are NOT in math mode and so should not be surrounded by dollar signs.


The command for the circular degree symbol is $^{\circ}$.

Example: The surface temperature rose to 45$^{\circ}$C.

Note: The dollar sign ($) could also go before the 45.


The command for angstrom is {\AA}

Characters used in languages other than English

The commands for the following characters are NOT done in math mode, and therefore should NOT be surrounded with dollar signs.

Note: In the table below, the letters c and o are used to demonstrate the placement of accents and diacritics over any letter. Some combinations of accent/diacritic and character cannot be represented in HTML (though they can be represented in LaTeX), and so do not appear in the table. In these instances, contributors should consult the resources in item 8 below.

Character Command
ò \`{o}
ô \^{o}
õ \~{o}
ç \c{c}
ó \'{o}
ö \"{o}
ö \"{o}

More LaTeX Resources

Complete information on LaTeX symbols, markup names, books, tutorials, FAQs, and discussion groups is available from the TeX Users Group (TUG) website at

Getting Help

If you encounter problems at any point in the abstract request, generation, or submission process, please contact the APS Abstract Help Desk by sending e-mail to or by calling the Abs-Help line at 301-209-3290 during regular business hours, Eastern Time.