I am writing a scientific report. In general, should I use non-breaking spaces in my cross-references and citations?

Here are some examples where I use tilde where a nonbreaking space might be used.

  • This Equation~(2).

  • See Table~3.

  • Refer to Figure~5.

  • Recall from Section~3.3.

  • We know that blah lead to bleh~[3].

  • The derivation is outlined in Reference~[5].

  • See also References~[8,11,13-15].

  • Details are provided in Annex~B.

The more confusing examples have two or more tildes and I don't know which ones warrant a nonbreaking space:

  • Sections~2 and~3

  • Figures~5 and~7

  • Sections~1 and~2.2

  • Combining Equations~(4) and~(7), we get .....

  • Tables~8,~10, and~12 show that ...

  • This can be seen by applying the transformation to Equations~(3),~(6), and~(9).

  • Tables~8~-~9.

  • Figures ~10~-~12.

  • Style issues of this type will depend on the place you want to publish. Check what similar documents have already done. If there is an editor or similar person, seek advice from them.
    – Boba Fit
    Dec 1, 2022 at 19:48

2 Answers 2


If you can, just repeat the words: "Section~2 and Section~3."

In academic papers, you always refer to labeled items by their full name; "Combining Equation~1 and Equation~4", or "Combining "Eq.~1 and Eq.~4" or "fig.~5 and fig.~7".

You can just put non-breaking spaces on multiple words, but check your final result, to see it if it gets broken by Latex or whatever word processor you use. Latex won't usually break it if it can fit on a line, but it may "widow" a few words and then line-break to put the unbroken sequence starting on a new line; and that can look weird because it looks like a mistake to the reader.

  • Thanks. Can you please cite a style guide for the always referring to label items by their full names? For a list of >2 items, it gets wordy and I would prefer to not do so if I just justify it stylistically. I wonder about that especially for citations, since LaTeX citation allows you to bundle citations, e.g., as in References [2,4,7-9]. Apart from that, would all my tildes be replaced by nonbreaking spaces, including references citations? And if I can stylistically bundle cross-references, would all the tildes in all my examples be nonbreaking spaces, including after dashes and "and"? Sep 6, 2022 at 22:18
  • 1
    @user2153235 I think you can use "bundled" references in Latex for equations and such. I don't have a style guide. I learned this as a grad student in Math, and again as a grad student in CS. I would say, go to Arxiv.org, search for papers in your field, scan them and see how it is done there. It may be field dependent; I don't know. The rules I learned is clarity is more important than space.
    – Amadeus
    Sep 7, 2022 at 13:31
  • The ambiguity that gave rise to my question exists in my "shop", which is quite diverse. Many colleagues with post-graduate degrees from different subject areas, all authoring works that go through a common publication process. Consequently, the styles are diverse. When a draft gets reviewed by others, they spend valuable time providing feedback, some of which could be subjective. It is respectful to return the favour by giving it due consideration and responding with reasons for the style used, referencing concrete external standards if possible. For my question, this might not exist. Sep 7, 2022 at 15:48
  • Regarding nonbreaking spaces that bookend en-dashes and em-dashes, I have found that it is a moot point. There should be no spaces abutting hyphens, en-dashes, or em-dashes. One unknown solved! :) Sep 7, 2022 at 15:50

In a manuscript submitted to a publisher, do not use non-breaking spaces unless you were specifically asked to do so. Your text will by typeset and issues at linebreaks will be taken care of during that process.

If you submit a PDF that is printed as is (that is, if you are asked to do the typesetting yourself), it doesn't matter how you manage the positioning of the text. When printing from PDF all that matters is where the letters are in the PDF that goes to the printer. So you can use non-breaking spaces or any other method that works for you (word spacing, placing a text box, etc,.).

If you self-publish an ebook, you can use   to avoid the separation of words.

  • Thanks, Ben. In some of my comments under Amadeus's answer, I explain the diverse situation within my shop. Since it is an internal publication process, there is the prospect that they may adopt or modify practices based on feedback from participants, so citing reasons for a given practice helps. It also makes it easier for the staff of authors do as much of the formatting as possible. Apr 4 at 13:45
  • @user2153235 I don't understand what you are saying. In what way is my answer not sufficient? Also, please be fair and consider my answer in relation to your question. If you forgot to mention relevant information in your question, please edit your question.
    – Ben
    Apr 4 at 14:00
  • It's an internal publication process in an organization with a diverse background. Rules exist but they can be argued; it's not as simple as deferring to established rules. In the argumentation, citing sources for rules would be helpful. The authors should do as much of the formatting as possible, so it's not just a matter of letting the publication process staff do it all ``correctly''. However, the staff may challenge or override the authors' decision. Your answer is helpful in general, but my situation may be unique. Specific rules with sources may be more applicable. Apr 5 at 14:39
  • @user2153235 You want a reference to some printed rule book so you can show that to the others in your team and display your superior knowledge? I'm not wasting my time for something so childish. If you're a team, agree on some rules instead of everyone trying to be more clever than the others.
    – Ben
    Apr 5 at 15:13

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