LaTeX for Secretaries

How to survive without Microsoft Word.
Overriding LaTeX Rules

LaTeX is very good at typesetting, but it still needs our help from time to time, especially in the case of the Overfull box error. Helping LaTeX usually means manually breaking a particular line of text. Don't worry, it will not hurt; just follow the rules given below:

  • To correct bad hyphenation, put \- inside a word, at a place where you think it should be hyphenated, e.g., lab\-yrinth or laby\-rinth.

  • To break a line after or before a word, without inserting a hyphen, use the \linebreak[4] command. (Try it on a line from the earlier example to see how it works for yourself.) The text before the command will be set to fill the whole width of the paragraph.

  • To break a line without filling the width of a paragraph, use \\.

  • To end a page and start a new one, use \pagebreak[4] or \newpage.

  • To keep a part of text together (such as a phone number), use the \mbox{...} command; e.g., \mbox{+0 (11) 123 456 789} will be moved to a new line if it does not fit on the current one, but it will not be broken in half.

After you insert one of these commands into the text, save it, run LaTeX, see how it looks in xdvi and use grep to find out whether any problems remain. Repeat until you get rid of all Overfull boxes.

Some Useful Formatting Tips

So far, you have read about formatting letters, but you can typeset all sorts of documents with LaTeX. For example, using \documentclass[...]{report} will put LaTeX into a nice report formatting mode. Brochures can be typeset with \documentclass[...]{book}; memos with a \documentclass[...]{article} and presentation slides with \documentclass[...]{slides}.

To make those documents look truly professional, there are a few additional commands like \author{...}, itle{...}, and if necessary, \date{...}. To generate a title header or a title page, use \maketitle after the last one. You should place those commands before \begin{document}.

In all cases of documents other than a letter, we do not need the \address{...}, \signature{...}, \begin{letter}, \opening{...}, \closing{...}, \cc{...}, \encl{...}, \ps{...} or \end{letter} commands.

To divide long text into parts, sections and chapters, use the \part{...}, \section{...} and \chapter{...} commands.


Listing 2

There are two kinds of lists you can typeset with LaTeX: bulleted (see Listing 2) and numbered (see Listing 3). Numbered lists are especially handy for all sorts of agreements, contracts, instructions, etc.

Listing 3

Fonts and Styles

Here is a list of additional useful commands for formatting text:

  • italics: enclose the text you want printed in italics with the \emph{...} command, e.g., I wish to \emph{emphasize} this!

  • alignment of text—left:right:center: \begin{center}...\end{center};

  • typewriter text: exttt{...};

  • sans-serif font: extsf{...};

  • font sizes: main document font size \normalsize{...}, and (in order of decreasing size) \small{...}, \footnotesize{...}, \scriptsize{...}, iny{...}, or (in order of increasing size) \large{...}, \Large{...}, \LARGE{...}, \huge{...}, \Huge{...}.


Any LaTeX file can be turned into a template with the following command:

chmod 444 businessletter.latex

These permissions will ensure that no one (including you) can overwrite the file you created. Anyone can open it, but to save the changes, it must be given a different name. In Emacs, you can do that with CTRL-X and W. It is also a good idea to place all templates in a separate directory.



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Life is not fair, is it? You

Anonymous's picture

Life is not fair, is it? You learned how to use Microsoft Word or Corel WordPerfect, only to find yourself at a job where your boss says you must use LaTeX.

If you think that's not fair, just imagine the other way around, I assure you it is a true nightmare.