I would like to know if questions pertaining to "how something should be formatted" (and not how to format it) are allowed on the main math.stackexchange site1.

Suppose we don't want to know how to typeset something, but rather, we want to know if it's common practice to typeset it a certain way. Or suppose we would like to know the popular convention for typesetting/expressing a specific mathematical concept.

Questions such as:

  • Is it common to format . . .
  • What is the proper way to write . . .

For example:

If I have an equation with a known variable expressed by a letter ($k$ in this case), what is the proper way to format the value of the variable?

May I define the value to right of the equation?

$$ 200k \, e^{-kt} \qquad , \qquad k=.02586$$

Or must the value be defined in the proceeding/preceding line?

$$200k \, e^{-kt}$$ where $k=.02586$

1 I know that questions related to $\LaTeX$ should be posted on that respsective site. I consider those "how to" questions for actually formatting text once someone already knows how they want it formatted.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I think the example falls under primarily opinion-based: suppose person A says "do it the first way", and person B says "do it the second way". Then what? $\endgroup$
    – user147263
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 3:27
  • $\begingroup$ Although the site isn't meant to operate like this, I suppose the two differing opinions would imply, at least to me, that either way is acceptable. In a very roundabout way, I guess that would answer the question: "May I define the value to right of the equation?". In this case, I think the way the question is worded can heavily influence the answers and their subsequent value. $\endgroup$
    – WHY
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 3:35
  • $\begingroup$ Your example questions is a bit unclear. The first is IMO not a good way to write things yet this has nothing to do with it "being on the same line" I would write, eg: $$200 k e^{-kt} \text{ where } k=.0929$$ on one line. I know the point is not to answer this question here. But the remark is meant ot show some potential pitfalls with such questions. $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Commented Apr 25, 2015 at 17:09

1 Answer 1


There are two meanings of "how to format mathematical text":

  1. it could mean "How do I tell LaTeX to do what I want?" (e.g., what packages exist for X)

  2. it could mean "How should I decide what I want?" (e.g., what conventions exist for X)

In my opinion, questions about (2) are on-topic here, whereas questions about (1) are for TeX.SE, or possibly for the MathJax maintainers (since MathJax $\neq$ LaTeX)

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This is a nice way to put it. I would however add to 2 that the questions should be about "mathematical conventions." I think general typesetting questions should be off-topic. $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Commented Apr 25, 2015 at 17:04
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome back to meta, it's been a while. $\endgroup$
    – user147263
    Commented Apr 25, 2015 at 18:24

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