[Tex/LaTex] Why do we use the Latex logo when referring to Latex in text?


It seems standard practice, when typesetting with Latex, to put the Latex logo in the text whenever we are referring to Latex itself (usually through the \LaTeX command). Why do we do this?

It's certainly far from standard practice. When we're referring to Adobe we don't write it in sans-serif, like its written in the Adobe logo. We don't refer to the New York Times in blackletter.

I got thinking about this while reading The Elements of Typographic Style, in which Robert Bringhurst says:

Logograms pose a more difficult question. An increasing number of
persons and institutions, from archy and mehitabel to PostScript and
TrueType, now come to the typographer in search of special treatment.
In the earlier days it was kings and deities whose agents demanded
that their names be written in a larger size or set in a specially
ornate typeface; now it is business firms and mass-market products
demanding an extra helping of capitals, or a proprietary face, and
poets pleading, by contrast, to be left entirely in the vernacular
lower case. But type is visible speech, in which gods and men, saints
and sinners, poets and business executives are fundamentally treated
alike. And the typographer, by virtue of his trade, honors stewardship
of texts and implicitly opposes private ownership of words.

Logotypes and logograms push typography in the direction of
hieroglyphics, which tend to be looked at rather than read.

Coming from Latex this passage struck a chord with me – I realized that this was precisely Latex standard practice.

I also started thinking about other typographical issues, which pushed me away from using the Latex logotype in text. In another chapter Bringhurst talks about typographical color, and how your paragraphs should look roughly uniform in terms of the density of black. Now when I see text where the logo is used a lot they seem quite patchy to me, and it feels like I'm not encouraged to read those paragraphs in linear order.

(For an example see the book Mathematics Into Type by Ellen Swanson page 3 [page 14 of the free PDF]. No specific insult meant to Ellen Swanson at all, it's just a freely available example.)

Those are two arguments against using the Latex logo in text. My question: what are the arguments in favor?

Best Answer

The almighty Knuth once said in the good book:

[...] it's important to notice another thing about TeX's name: The E is out of kilter. This displaced E is a reminder that TeX is about typesetting, and it distinguishes TeX from other system names. In fact, TEX (pronounced tecks) is the admirable Text EXecutive processor developed by Honeywell Information Systems. Since these two system names are pronounced quite differently, they should also be spelled differently. The correct way to refer to TeX in a computer file, or when using some other medium that doesn't allow lowering of the E, is to type TeX. Then there will be no confusion with similar names, and people will be primed to pronounce everything properly.

In the trustful [citation needed] Wikipedia article about LaTeX, there's this mention:

The name is traditionally printed in running text with a special typographical logo: LaTeX. In media where the logo cannot be precisely reproduced in running text, the word is typically given the unique capitalization LaTeX.

Personally, I believe it's up to the author to decide whether to use one form in favour of another. Since this question aims at why we use the logo the way it is (and in my humble POV, deliberately or not, you got the wrong capitalization in the title), these are the sources telling the beginning of the story. :)

Following guidelines should not suppress your own opinions. So, do what it pleases you. As long as you use the proper logos or at the very least the proper capitalization, everything is fine IMHO. Everything besides that goes against what Knuth/Lamport envisioned. :)

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