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Document 417

Resolving LaTeX errors

Version: 3.x, 4.x, 5.x - Scientific WorkPlace & Scientific Word

If LaTeX can't properly compile your document, you must find and correct the problem. A thorough knowledge of TeX and LaTeX is invaluable in this process.

The simplest errors to find and fix result from mistyping or omitting commands. In particular, LaTeX reacts negatively when it encounters these conditions:

  • Misspelled commands or environment names, as in \beginn{wraptable}.
  • Improperly matched or missing braces or delimiters, as in \begin{multicols]{3} or \begin{multicols}{3.
  • Improperly using a character with a special meaning in TeX, such as #, %, &, or \.
  • Missing \end commands.
  • Missing command arguments.

Carefully proofread the TeX commands you type in TeX fields, in the preamble of your document, or in dialogs that pass your commands directly to LaTeX.

LaTeX error messages

When an error occurs, the LaTeX or pdfLaTeX window displays an error message like the one below to help you isolate the error and correct the problem (the error is also recorded in the .log file):
Example of LaTeX error message

  • The exclamation point signals the error. The information on that line describes the nature of the problem.
  • The line number (line 70 above) indicates approximately where in your document or in a related typesetting specifications file the error has occurred. The message may include a portion of the document text. You can use an ASCII editor to locate the error precisely.

Responding to error messages

When you get an error, you can

  • ignore it.
  • solve it and keep going.
  • halt the typesetting process.

The question mark on the last line of the message above indicates that the compiler has a question. If you type ? and press Enter, LaTeX responds with this message:
Message showing LaTeX options

Now you can choose a course of action.

After processing stops, open the .log file with an ASCII editor to examine the messages more conveniently. Compare the .log file to the .tex file. Pay particular attention to any errors that occur in the preamble. Incorrect definition statements or statements that hide environment changes can cause compilation errors.

Last revised 11/10/05

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