This is related to http://meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/2/tex-math-markup-is-sorely-needed but it's not the same.

While we're waiting for a TeX script to be installed (soon, I hope), there are a lot of questions popping up with incorrect TeX syntax. I see it immediately, because I use a GreaseMonkey script that converts the formulas to images (sorry, I don't know where I got it. Maybe it's this one: http://www.gold-saucer.org/mathml/greasemonkey/). For example:

  1. Why is $\int\limits_0^1 (1-x^7)^{1/5} - (1-x^5)^{1/7} dx=0$?
  2. Good Physical Demonstrations of Abstract Mathematics

In the first, {} brackets aren't used where needed, and in the second it's both that and not using dollar signs around the formula. My question is

Should we edit questions to fix invalid TeX formulas?

I ask because adding {} to the formula has the disadvantage of making it less readable. Also, when I try to edit a question I get the original text without all the newlines (it appears as a solid block of text, no paragraphs).

Your opinion is appreciated.


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  • $\begingroup$ Fixed my question. Thanks for pointing it out. $\endgroup$ – Larry Wang Jul 22 '10 at 11:08
  • $\begingroup$ All: I'm locking this discussion thread since the introduction of MathJax to Math.SE makes a lot of what was written here obsolete. If you have similar concerns for the present system, please open a new discussion instead of bringing back this one. $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Feb 20 '12 at 15:53

For purposes of editing: if it is enclosed within \$'s, assume that it is meant to be interpreted as TeX. In those cases, do edit for correct display. Otherwise, favor readability as text. Either way, if you make a change, note it in the edit summary to make rollback easy if you misinterpreted the original writer's meaning. (Easy to do if the formula was written ambiguously to begin with)
The same goes when writing. If you want to use TeX symbols, put \$ around your expression so that it is displayed correctly for others, or use some online converter for now.

  • $\begingroup$ On MO, it's fairly standard for people to edit others' questions and answers to fix TeX code. I'd say it should be the same here. $\endgroup$ – Akhil Mathew Jul 22 '10 at 11:14
  • $\begingroup$ Even if there won't be TeX support? I for one don't know how to read TeX equations, having never used TeX, meaning I often don't understand the equations on the site without effort. $\endgroup$ – Edan Maor Jul 22 '10 at 11:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Edan: If there are no $'s, formulas won't be converted, right? $\endgroup$ – Larry Wang Jul 22 '10 at 11:24
  • $\begingroup$ What is it has stuff like \sum but not enclosed with $ ? $\endgroup$ – Tomer Vromen Jul 22 '10 at 11:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Edan: I'm assuming there will be TeX support sometime soon. $\endgroup$ – Akhil Mathew Jul 22 '10 at 12:11
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Tomer: If it's clear that the writer forgot the $'s, I would just add them. If the rest of the expression is clearly meant to be written as plaintext, I would replace it with the appropriate unicode symbol. In any case, bring it to the attention of the person who wrote it. $\endgroup$ – Larry Wang Jul 22 '10 at 14:02

This depends on when TeX support is coming. If it'll be here in a week, then definitely. If they're not planning on adding it, then I'd favor readability in plain-text over correctness.

Does anyone have any idea about when the support will be here?


I'm not using Tex here, and I'm only using Tex on Math Overflow where the results are much more readable in Tex than in plain text or text with Unicode.

I'd say, don't use Tex if the results are at all hard to read. Don't fix non-Tex into Tex, except if that improves raw readability.


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