Right-aligned text in a linguex gloss example (LaTeX)

January 23, 2016

linguex is a LaTeX package, popular among linguists, which “facilitates the formatting of linguistics examples, automatically taking care of example numbering, indentations, indexed brackets, and the ‘*’ in grammaticality judgments.” The main command is \ex., which is used to produce a simple example like this:

It is common, of course, to add a bit of commentary text to an example, such as a parenthetical citation.1 An easy way to do this is to right-align the text using \hfill:

Importantly, linguex allows you to easily create glossed examples by using a slight variant of \ex., namely the \exg. command. Instead of a single line, \exg. expects 2-3 lines: the example, the gloss, and (optionally) the translation.

Now, what if you want to add some commentary text, for example the language being glossed? It turns out (due to the inner workings of linguex) that you can only \hfill some text on the third line, not the first. In other words, this works…

…but this doesn’t…

If all your glosses have translations, and if you don’t mind the look of commentary text on the third line, then this is good enough. However, if some of your examples don’t need translations, or if you simply prefer the look of commentary text on the first line, then here is a workaround.2

What this does is put “(French)” inside of a \raisebox, which is a box that gets raised (almost) 2 lines up, so that “(French)” ends up on the same line as the French example. (Actually, what’s going on under the LaTeX hood is more complicated than that, but that’s essentially the end result.)

We can abstract over this particular case and define a new command to use throughout a document as follows:

Now, you can just do this:

A few caveats:

  1. You may have to fiddle with the 1.9 value, depending on font, etc.
  2. If your example is really long and spills over to a second line, then \rcommentg won’t work. In that case, just manually add the comment using a \raisebox and a larger value than 1.9\baselineskip.
  3. If your example spills over to the next page, i.e. the example sentence is on one page while the translation is on the next page, then \rcommentg won’t work. My suggestion in this case is to wait until your manuscript is otherwise completely finished, and then add a \clearpage before the offending example. (Glossed examples really should not split across more than one page anyway, IMO.)

Lastly, I should mention that expex, a much more sophisticated example package, comes with its own \rightcomment command that can be used on any line of a gloss example. In expex, the French example above would look like this:

(Note the lack of space between the comment and the word “Il”, and note the use of forward double slashes to end a line.)

expex automatically handles all the caveats above. The downside (which is very subjective, of course) is that expex’s syntax is more cumbersome than linguex’s. However, if you find yourself doing quite a bit of complex examples, requiring sophisticated commenting, spacing, formatting, etc., then you should definitely consider switching to expex.


  1. You should of course use \parencite (biblatex) or \citep (natbib) instead of manually entering citations.

  2. This solution is a modification of a solution I came across on Facebook (which inspired this blog post), posted by Laura Kalin in response to a LaTeX question by Keir Moulton. Laura’s solution, which she attributed to Byron Ahn, involved using \rput instead of \raisebox. \rput comes from the PSTricks package. A problem with this solution is that PSTricks does not work with PDFLaTeX (at least not by default), which means you need to first compile to PS/DVI and then convert PS/DVI to PDF, or else use XeLaTeX instead. (Also, PSTricks does not play nicely with certain other packages, IIRC.) The advantage of using \raisebox is that it’s a native LaTeX command; no extra package necessary.