The vast majority of low-quality questions I've encountered on this site do not use $\LaTeX$ formatting. Would the site be improved if questions not containing any $\LaTeX$ were simply not allowed?

I imagine this situation: a new user writes a question, without using any $\LaTeX$. They try to submit their question, but a little textbox pops up:

It looks like you haven't used $\LaTeX$ in your question. Please use $\LaTeX$ to format your math. Use this guide if you need a reference.

This would have several positive effects:

  1. Greatly decreasing the share of poorly formatted posts
  2. Making new users familiar with $\LaTeX$
  3. Deterring unproductive users: are users who are unwilling to even look at the MathJax tutorial likely to contribute to the site? I think not. I understand that this might be a controversial point.

Finally, there occasionally are legitimate text-only questions that do not call for $\LaTeX$. It would still be easy to post those, all the user would have to do is nominally fulfill the $\LaTeX$ requirement, e.g. by adding $ $ somewhere within their question.

  • $\begingroup$ Considering that similar suggestion posted here some time ago has score -26 (3/29), I don't expect this one to be taken more positively. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 9:41
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    $\begingroup$ It would be nice if every question used MathJax for formatting math formulae. However, first-time visitors to the site should not be forced to learn $\LaTeX$ to ask a question. Hopefully, more experienced users will edit these early posts to use MathJax. On the other hand, if a user has made a number of posts on the site, I would expect they would devote some time to learning $\LaTeX$; then they could, in turn, improve the posts of others which need MathJax. $\endgroup$
    – robjohn Mod
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 9:45
  • $\begingroup$ Most bad questions may well be poorly formatted, but your suggestion doesn't make sense unless most poorly formatted questions are bad. If lots of poorly formatted questions are good, you'd be shutting the door on lots of good questions. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 10:33
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    $\begingroup$ What I do think should be implemented is a ban on new users posting images, as in the vast majority of cases, these are simply used to lazily drop blurry photographs of textbook homework exercises, and I don't see how such questions contribute positively to MSE. $\endgroup$
    – user139000
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 10:56
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    $\begingroup$ @pew what will prevent them from posting links to pictures? $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 12:25
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    $\begingroup$ "all the user would have to do is nominally fulfill the LATEX requirement, e.g. by adding \$ \$ somewhere within their question." So users can still post questions that require a lot of LaTeX, but still get away with not using LaTeX (for most of the question) as long as they include one LaTeX expression? And how is this an improvement over the existing situation? $\endgroup$
    – JRN
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 12:27
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    $\begingroup$ I completely disagree. Take this question here for example. I could very well have replaced the only sentence containing LaTeX by "there's an operad whose category of algebras is equivalent to the category of fields". Boom, you get a whole question without any mathematical symbols. Does that make it a bad question? I hope not. (I'm only using that question as an example because I recalled asking one with hardly any math formatting, don't take that as a personal plug). $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 17:17

1 Answer 1


$\def\MathJax{\sf\color{#2e9f40}{Math}Jax}$It is hard to say to what extent each point below applies, but I doubt the pros outweigh the cons.


Those who would otherwise post an image or a cryptic mess of symbols might now be incentivized to write in $\MathJax$ instead.


We already have many users who are more than happy to translate new users' posts into $\MathJax$ or offer advice on how they can do it themselves.

New users unfamiliar with $\MathJax$ might find learning it too intimidating and give up trying to ask their question entirely. Despite many questions by new users lacking something as simple as the delimiters around expressions, they may not know this.

Those who do decide to learn $\MathJax$ would probably still make mistakes worth editing out.

If someone is so lazy that despite knowing $\MathJax$, they still do not want to format their question, they would likely just add an empty block of it somewhere.

Some well formulated, on topic questions and answers have no need for $\MathJax$. Many of the top voted questions on this site are like this. It would be a nuisance to have to add an unnecessary block of $\MathJax$ just to be able to post.

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    $\begingroup$ One might use $\sf\color{red}{No} \color{#2e9f40}{Math}Jax$ for that block. ;-) $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 16:32
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    $\begingroup$ $+1$ because you used $\MathJax$ even if you $\color{red}{didn't}$ have to. $\endgroup$
    – JRN
    Commented Feb 28, 2015 at 4:22

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