Let’s start with two basic principles: (1) commands and symbols and (2) spacing.
Commands and Symbols
Commands are special words that determine LaTeX behavior. Commands begin with a backslash (\) and generally require the use of curly braces. Symbols also begin with a backslash (\), but do not require the use of curly braces. Think of a command as defining an environment and a symbol as invoking a particular character.