Seemingly randomly nicely formatted superscripts and subscripts (e.g. to look like $f_1$) in math in text cells will revert to their long form e.g. Subscript[f, 1]. I am not sure what causes this or why this behavior would ever be desirable. They can be reverted back to the nicer formatting by selecting the expression and clicking Evaluate in place. However, this is complicated for longer expressions where one has to be careful to select to correct units. For example when I have $f_1=g_1$ obviously selecting and evaluating the whole expression does not give the desired result.

Are there any work-arounds for this "bug"? Either to avoid the long form suddenly appearing completely. Or too quickly change these expressions back to their nicer formatting.

"13.2.0 for Linux x86 (64-bit) (December 7, 2022)" Although I have had this issue with many older versions of Mathematica as well.

I can reproduce this by typing just outside a math box containing a superscript but I'm not sure that this is the only thing that causes this behavior.

Constructing a minimal example:

  1. Open a notebook.
  2. Create a text cell (and place your cursor in it).
  3. Type f followed by a subscript 1 (i.e. `ctrl+_ followed by 1 for me.)
  4. Press the right arrow twice. (The first press will take you outside the subscript. The second outside the math box that was created in the text cell when you first used a subscript.)
  5. Type f with a subscript 1 again. (i.e. repeat step 3.)

Voila, the first subscript will be replaced by its long form (at least for me, it might be a Linux thing...)

User Domen reproduced this also on Windows: enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ I am talking about text cells explaining what is going on. I don't use Subscripts or Superscripts in calculations. $\endgroup$
    – Kvothe
    Feb 29 at 14:12
  • $\begingroup$ I see, sorry I missed that part. I have not experience it so I am afraid that I would not be able to help. Do you have a reproducible example (e.g. a notebook where that happens routinely)? $\endgroup$
    – MarcoB
    Feb 29 at 14:14
  • $\begingroup$ @MarcoB, I added the steps to get a minimal example where the nice formatting gets replaced by the long form. (I think this makes more sense than sharing code in this case. Since the purpose is to see the formatting change happen.) $\endgroup$
    – Kvothe
    Feb 29 at 14:27
  • $\begingroup$ I can reproduce the issue in v13.3. I guess the simplest way out is to type in a space before making the second subscript ... And you can remove the space afterwards. $\endgroup$
    – Domen
    Feb 29 at 14:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Domen,thanks for confirming this is not just a Linux issue and adding the gif to clarify! $\endgroup$
    – Kvothe
    Feb 29 at 14:43

1 Answer 1


This below is using V 14 on windows 10 pro.

Mathematica graphics

You need a space between them. So you can work around this by inserting VeryThinspace between them,. Like this

So instead of this

enter image description here

Do this

enter image description here

Note that VeryThinspace produces space of 1/18 em, which is very very small.

If you want no space at all between the letters, you can replace the above with InvisibleSpace

is by default not visible on display, but is interpreted on input as an ordinary space.

which also result in fixing this problem but with no space at all in between. Like this

enter image description here

It looks like one needs some sort of space letter before subscripts letters. I do not know if this is by design or a bug.

This is the difference.

enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. Is it clear to you why a space would be needed? (Is there any justification for this choice or is it really just a bug?) While this is a good answer a great answer might also find a solution for what to do when you have made some "mistake" that made the subscripts revert to their long form. Note that Undo also doesn't work to undo these changes (at least for me). Finally, I think there are other actions that unexpectedly change the subscripts (although I haven't managed to reliably reproduce these) making restoring them even more important. $\endgroup$
    – Kvothe
    Feb 29 at 14:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Kvothe I do not know why space is needed. I do not know also if this is a feature or a bug. Hopefully someone knows. If you report this to WRI they should know. $\endgroup$
    – Nasser
    Feb 29 at 15:03
  • $\begingroup$ it's definitely a bug $\endgroup$
    – Jason B.
    Feb 29 at 19:33

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