center vs. centering

A frequently seen mistake is to use \begin{center} … \end{center} inside a figure or table environment. This center environment can cause additional vertical space. If you want to avoid that just use \centering instead like in this example:


The additional space of the center environment is caused by a trivlist environment. Its defined by latex.ltx:

\def\center{\trivlist \centering\item\relax}

As you can see \center calls \centering too. By directly using \centering you could omit that trivlist.

Inside normal text \begin{center} … \end{center} is useful of course to center and to generate vertical space between the centered text and the surrounding text.

Concerning \centering it’s advisable to limit its scope by grouping. Inside a figure or table environment it’s already limited, but inside normal text you should use curly braces or \begingroup\centering … \endgroup:

{\centering Text

As you can see I set an empty line before closing the centered group. If I do not end the paragraph by a paragraph break or the line by \\ then the following text outside the group will be centered too. \centering is also defined by latex.ltx:


It’s using \leftskip and \rightskip to flush left and right.

This topic was discussed in the LaTeX Community Forum, on and on

13. June 2008 by stefan
Categories: Figures and Tables | 6 comments

Comments (6)

  1. Pingback: » Blog Archive » Automatic Table Row Numbers in LaTeX

  2. > … then the following text outside the group will be centered too.

    Is this a bug? Why does it do this?

  3. @Yoo:

    No, it’s just because center is a switch: you switch on centered typesetting. Unless it’s turned off again (switched to left-aligned, say), LaTeX will continue centering. Everything’s fine there. The scope is a paragraph, as determined by the TeX engine.

  4. how to end centering?

  5. Pingback: ATTN: Studenten steun- en klaagthread - Deel 22 - Pagina 117 - 9lives - Games Forum

  6. Just give it a scope {centering …}

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