Although, as of now, this comment collected 17 upvotes, I still hope that the thought was expressed not precisely enough. (Mis)typesetting like

     b^2 - a^2 = (b+a)x(b-a)

can induce vomit, many would agree. But is

     b2a2 = (b + a) × (b − a)

very different from $$b^2 - a^2 = (b+a)\times(b-a)\ ?$$

In specific cases, there may be some arguments against using LaTeX, ranging from avoiding unnecessary complications ($1,729$ renders with an annoying space – do you know which code produces $1{,}729$?) to aesthetisation (“a 2 × 2 matrix” does not protuberate unlike “a $2×2$ matrix”, and I prefer 2π over $2π$, as well as 360° over either $360°$ or $360^\circ$; the last one is also not searchable due to incorrect code point). Also, it is a common practice to avoid LaTeX in titles; although they haven’t HTML, Unicode is available.

Is here some rule or prejudice against HTML/Unicode-formatted formulae? Ones similar to those I produce at various Internet sites, namely: StackExchange, Wikipedia and, very recently, Quora. Have LaTeX codes some importance but as one of formatting mechanisms?


 1. I found that ISO 80000 advises against italicizing symbols of constants. Namely, ISO deems that π (for the area of unit circle) is incorrect whereas π is correct. I doubt there is a convenient way to display roman-type Greek lowercase letters, namely α β γ δ ϵ ε ζ η θ ι κ λ μ ν ξ ο π ρ ς σ τ υ ϕ φ χ ψ ω, with either TEX or MathJax.
 2. A newer discussion about questionable MathJax practices, borrowed from early days plain TEX kludges, is currently hosted here.

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    $\begingroup$ You bring up some good points. I think the some simple formulas look okay in Unicode, and don't need to be edited into LaTeX. But only really simple ones. As for issues, there is minor one: if one wants to save the post as a LaTeX file, the Unicode characters have to be replaced with their LaTeX analogues. $\endgroup$
    – user147263
    Commented Nov 30, 2014 at 18:58
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    $\begingroup$ To avoid having a space after $,$ use {,} for example, $1{,}729$. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Commented Nov 30, 2014 at 20:25
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    $\begingroup$ Also my phone usually fails to render many unicode math characters. Since I post more and more from my phone, I prefer to let its CPU sweat with MathJax rendering and be able to actually read the question, or answers given. As for the preference of fonts, if you'll write enough papers in $\LaTeX$ you will change your mind. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Commented Nov 30, 2014 at 20:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Asaf Karagila: do you mean you device can do MathJax, but fails to render Unicode Mathematical Operators and similar in running text? Sorry my humour about space was so subtle that you rushed to write a spoiler instead of taking the point. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 30, 2014 at 20:36
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, that is what I meant. My phone can show me MathJax, but not all unicode math. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Commented Nov 30, 2014 at 20:37
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    $\begingroup$ Although the above form is acceptable to me, most users will still downvote it, since it shows a lack of effort in conforming with the standard everyone else has. My problem mainly lies with rendering fractions and symbols. What about matrices or piecewise defined functions? $\endgroup$
    – user142198
    Commented Nov 30, 2014 at 21:41
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    $\begingroup$ In brief, there is definitely a prejudice against non-$\LaTeX$ formatting. Our MathJaX just looks the best, it's not hard to learn, and it reads best on a broader variety of device formats. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 5:37
  • $\begingroup$ I have added (mathjax) tag (since it is related - it discusses not using mathjax) and (unicode) tag (I am not sure about this one, but I have no idea whether we have some tag which is close to typesetting math without mathjax.) If anybody has better idea for suitable tags for this question, feel free to retag. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 8:01
  • $\begingroup$ Related older discussion: Is there something wrong with posts avoiding mathjax? $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 8:03
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    $\begingroup$ Don't tell me you want to say you'd prefer this over Mathjax. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 8:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Integrator Don't tell me you came across that post, had 2000 rep, and did not edit it. $\endgroup$
    – user147263
    Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 16:11
  • $\begingroup$ @WarmFuzzies I just noticed that you changed your name, but just see who is next to you when it comes to editing! $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 16:13
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    $\begingroup$ @Integrator Point taken. Good job. $\endgroup$
    – user147263
    Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 16:17
  • $\begingroup$ @WarmFuzzies I actually started to edit it but I hate HTML so... $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 16:18

1 Answer 1


Although there are some great comments above, one thing no one has mentioned is people who use assistive technology like screen readers. Having the mathematics clearly marked as mathematics (as oppose to "fake" mathematics using other HTML tricks) makes it much easier to properly voice the mathematics for screen readers. Although few screen readers currently handle mathematics, the number are growing, and the MathJax team is working with several to help improve the situation. The format used by most screen readers is MathML, and since MathJax can generate MathML from your TeX input, that means that any math that is entered in MathJax notation will be accessible to those users with special needs. The upshot is, if you use MathJax to mark up your mathematics, even when it is possible to do it using HTML, it will help out those readers who use assistive technology.

A related issue is that people who wish to reuse the content of the questions and answers, not just in LaTeX papers, as has been mentioned in the comments, but for other machine processing of the math (math aggregators, math search, analysis of mathematical content of questions, copying and pasting into other programs, etc.), will find it much easier to identify the mathematical sections of the questions if they are clearly marked as mathematics rather than marked up in HTML in other ways. MathJax can create a good machine-readable form (MathML) for the math content when it is written in TeX, and that can be used as an interchange format for other programs. For example, the MathML obtainable from MathJax's "Show Math As..." contextual menu can be pasted into programs like Mathematica, and even Microsoft Word, while retaining its mathematical meaning. That simply can't be done with HTML-formatted mathematics.

My own feeling is that anything that improves the semantics of the content (without unduly burdening the author) is a good thing. Using a mechanism (like MathJax notation) that clearly delimits the mathematics from the other text on the page is an important example of this.

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    $\begingroup$ It might be worth stressing, in case you agree, that as a consequence of this MathJax should rather not be used for things that are not at all mathematics, such as $ugly slanted text$ or just "white space." Do you agree with this or is there a point that I am missing that might make that practice legitimate? $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Commented Dec 5, 2014 at 12:52
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    $\begingroup$ @quid. I absolutely agree. MathJax should be used only for mathematical content, not for adding white space, or italics, or colored text, or background colors, or line breaks in comments, or other display hacks, to textual (non-math) content. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 5, 2014 at 13:47
  • $\begingroup$ @DavideCervone Recently a question about screen readers was posted here on meta: [Problem with MathJax and Screen Readers. I though it might be wise to ping you, since you are probably best qualified to say something about MathJax and Screen Readers from the people around here. (Or at least you might know where to look for further information.) $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 16:01
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks -- I've commented in the post you link to. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 22:18

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