Suppose you wish to ask a notational question:

"Is there an accepted notation for..."

I assume that such questions are okay, since we have a "notation" tag and also a "terminology" tag, and it seems to be acceptable to use these tags in this manner.

Anyway, assume also that it is likely that some comments or answers will be of the form:

"We don't need a notation for this because..."

Suppose furthermore that you don't appreciate such comments/answers for this particular question. Or perhaps you don't appreciate them in general. In either case, there's a few options available to you:

  1. State somewhere in the question that you don't appreciate such comments/answers.
  2. Don't state this anywhere in the question.
  3. Something else.

Irrespective of which option is taken, nonetheless such comments and/or answers may be given. In this case, your options are:

  1. Reply.
  2. Ignore.
  3. Something else.

Which option in this 3x3 grid of possibilities does the community deem to be "best", and if this involves making certain statements, what is the best way of phrasing these statements?

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  • $\begingroup$ For deciding "something else" do you consult a Magic 8 Ball? :-) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jun 12 '15 at 15:11
  • $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila, I consult a Magic 8 Ball irrespective :) the sad truth is that ALL my decision-making is Magic 8 Ball-based... $\endgroup$ – goblin Jun 12 '15 at 15:12
  • $\begingroup$ Interesting. I roll a die and assume that the result was a statistical measurement error, and the actual outcome was in fact 3.5, so I always act according to the option that the die gives 3.5... $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jun 12 '15 at 15:16
  • $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila, agreed, integer results are always statistical measurement errors. Especially when I don't like them :) $\endgroup$ – goblin Jun 12 '15 at 15:18
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    $\begingroup$ "We don't need a notation for [stuff] because [reason], hence there is no established/accepted notation for [stuff]." would be a valid answer, wouldn't it? Does the "hence there is no ..." make a difference for your appreciation? $\endgroup$ – Daniel Fischer Jun 12 '15 at 15:21
  • $\begingroup$ @DanielFischer, somewhat, but I'd prefer just the part that states: "there is no established notation." After all, we don't truly need a notation for anything, and furthermore, the optimal amount of notation is highly subjective and opinion based, and may even be a function of how a person's brain is wired. $\endgroup$ – goblin Jun 12 '15 at 15:34

As a rule I think one should try to answer questions as asked, and not engage in tangential debates.

"Is there a standard notation for...?"

is just not answered by

"We do not need one, because...".

However, it would be answered by

"There is none, because..."

I do not see how you could or should prevent this answer (if it is true). (I see Daniel Fischer makes a similar point in a comment.)

But also in view of the first sentence, I think it is a valid concern to want to keep ones question focused on the actual question. If one anticipates problems, to end the question with a brief and non-confrontational statement as below seems alright to me:

"Please do not discuss the merits of having a standard notation."


"I appreciate some think there is no need for a notation here, still I would like to know if there is a standard notation"

Otherwise some user might comment (if not answer) with some advice on alternative ways to present some piece of math without that notation.

There is a balance to be found here, as such sentence can also invite what they should prevent. But I still think they can be useful when used sparingly in the right situation.

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    $\begingroup$ You know, you're pretty good with words :) $\endgroup$ – goblin Jun 12 '15 at 17:06

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