In TeXStudio by hitting ALT+DEL in a LaTeX macro like this \macroname{content} while the cursor stands just before the first { will result in deleting all that except its content (as shown below).

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Put the cursor (point) just before the first curly bracket:

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Hit ALT+DEL and you get:

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How to achieve this in Emacs?

According to T.Verron's clarification there is a problem with C-c C-f C-d as it complains from error of unbalanced parenthesis when executed within some macros in LaTeX. Consider the below example:
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throws this error: up-list: Scan error: "Unbalanced parentheses", 8074, 1. \textenglish{} belongs to polyglossia package.

How to get rid of this caveat?

  • Hem, the caveat with the current answer is not about whether auctex fontifies the macro or not, it is about whether the macro is a latex font specification (probably as defined by TeX-font-list) or not. For example, try with \section or \footnote, AUCTeX knows about these macros and fontifies them, but C-c C-f C-d will complain about unbalanced parentheses.
    – T. Verron
    Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 13:38
  • Even if I can update this TeX-font-list to include my newly introduced macros, this remains a suboptimal workaround. Otherwise, I don't know what prvents having an eLISP function to deal with it!
    – doctorate
    Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 13:54

3 Answers 3


Try this function:

(defun mg-TeX-delete-current-macro (&optional arg)
  "Remove the current macro.
With an optional argument ARG, delete just the ARG-th macro
starting from the innermost."
  (interactive "*p")
  (let (macro end)
    (dotimes (i arg macro)
      (goto-char (TeX-find-macro-start))
      (setq macro (TeX-current-macro)
        end (TeX-find-macro-end))
      ;; If we need to look for an outer macro we have to "exit" from the
      ;; current one.
      ;; Return to the beginning of the macro to be deleted.
       (concat (regexp-quote TeX-esc) macro "\\(?:\\[[^]]*\\]\\)?"
           TeX-grop "\\(\\(.\\|\n\\)*\\)")
       end t)
      (replace-match "\\1")
      ;; Delete the closing brace.
      (delete-backward-char 1))))

Limitation: doesn't work with verbatim-like macros. This function will throw an error (Wrong type argument: integer-or-marker-p, nil) if the universal argument is greater than the number of macros enclosing point.

Bind the function to your favorite shortcut. For example

(eval-after-load "tex"
  '(local-set-key (kbd "M-DEL") 'mg-TeX-delete-current-macro))

to bind it it M-DEL.

If your buffer has (! is point)


then C-2 M-DEL will give you

  • If the point inside innermost group (gr1(gr2(gr3(gr4)))) do you mean by a prefix C-u then 2 it will give me: (gr1(gr2))? if it is so, that must be brilliant. I hope you had the time to do it.
    – doctorate
    Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 20:27
  • I bound it to M-DEL like in TexStudio. Thanks.
    – doctorate
    Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 20:42
  • @doctorate Well, no, my idea is to delete just the second macro, gr3 in your case. See the updated answer. You can implement what you suggested by wrapping a dotimes around when of the original version of the answer.
    – giordano
    Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 21:10
  • Great function! Now it behaves like a smart macro-pacman! one caveat though; when the argument is big and it throws an error the point jumps somewhere backward. Can you make it complain while standing in its current place?
    – doctorate
    Commented Jan 7, 2015 at 8:55
  • @giordano Any chance this will make it into AucTex? It's very useful!
    – Tyler
    Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 15:40

From the AUCTeX manual node on Changing the font:

C-c C-f C-d

Delete the innermost font specification containing point.
  • that was a very handy piece in the documentation that I missed. Thanks.
    – doctorate
    Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 12:55
  • But it only works for font specifications (and the verification makes sense, for example for \emph{\randommacro{test}} it will delete the \emph).
    – T. Verron
    Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 13:03
  • @T.Verron: good clarification. I'm not aware of a built-in way to do this for arbitrary LaTeX macros.
    – Dan
    Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 13:08

Here's a simple function to remove the containing macro at point:

(defun TeX-remove-macro ()
  "Remove current macro and return `t'.  If no macro at point,
return `nil'."
  (when (TeX-current-macro)
    (let ((bounds (TeX-find-macro-boundaries))
          (brace  (save-excursion
                    (goto-char (1- (TeX-find-macro-end)))
      (delete-region (1- (cdr bounds)) (cdr bounds))
      (delete-region (car bounds) (1+ brace)))

Hence, with * as point:

\footnote{Here's a * footnote} 
  => Here's a footnote

Given the above function, it's a one-liner to remove all the macros at point:

(defun TeX-remove-all-macros ()
  "Remove all containing macros for text at point."
  (while (TeX-remove-macro)))

Hence, again with * as point:

\footnote{Here's a \textbf{footnote with \emph{emphasized * text}}} 
  => Here's a footnote with emphasized text

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