What to do with edits that "just add dollar signs"?

It's no secret that a lot of the people out there don't know enough LaTeX. Maybe they were never exposed to it, or maybe they are just unaware of the fact you can use MathJax on the site.

So sometimes you see posts written with "ASCII math standards" For example "*x^(2.5)+2*sqrt(6y-1)=phi/pi*". The correct LaTeX-ification would be $x^{2.5}+2\sqrt{6y-1}=\frac\phi\pi$.

But sometimes you see people who just, perhaps lazily, add dollar signs around equations, and the result is $x^(2.5)+2*sqrt(6y-1)=phi/pi$. Or sometimes they recognize some of the additional slashes and braces and the result looks like $x^(2.5)+\sqrt(6y-1)=\phi/\pi$.

Assuming that you don't have the energy to correct the LaTeX yourself. What should be done with the edit? (Reject/Approve/Ignore?)

• What can be quite bad is when braces get "TeXified" naively and then are just gone.
– quid
Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 20:10
• IHO these edits cause harm to the post. It is, for example, unclear after the edit what does that $\sqrt(6y-1)$ mean. One should either reject or "reject and edit".
– user99914
Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 20:57
• @JohnMa I agree. Edits like those cause harm. Most of my edits are largely comprehensive (or something like removing \displaystyle from the title), but I will sometimes review edits that only add dollar signs here and there and in an often haphazard sort of way. I usually reject such edits (or sometimes reject and edit), but many of these kinds of rejects contribute to a somewhat more harsh edit suggestion record (currently 506 approved, 540 rejected). Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 22:28
• Is $\phi\over\pi$ better than $\phi/\pi$? Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 23:22
• @Gerry: No, but \frac\phi\pi (or \frac{\phi}{\pi} to those bothering to add even redundant braces) is better... :-) I actually wondered if someone will comment about this!
– Asaf Karagila Mod
Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 23:25
• Somewhat related: I routinely reject suggested edits that just add dollar signs around numerals in prose text. There's nothing wrong with writing $42$ in order to get the digits into the same typeface that is used for more complex formulas in the post -- but there's no reason at all to change 42 to $42$ if the post doesn't contain any complex formulas that the plain body font's digits could clash with. Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 14:53

If the suggested edit produces garbage, like in the above cases, I would happily reject. If I didn't have enough energy to properly edit myself, but a small amount of excess energy, I would probably include a custom reject reason -- at least it was understood (if not pretty) that $x^{2.5}$ was meant in the original post, but such a proposed edit certainly makes things worse.

I definitely wouldn't approve, for the reasons given above. In fact, even if I was going to properly edit, I would still probably reject this one with a custom reason before editing myself. I would want the editor to know there are better edits that should be applied, and that this one really shouldn't be.

And, since I have seen some pretty bad edits approved, I wouldn't simply Skip. I'm not confidant that anyone else will Improve Edit, if the edit sits in the queue, and I don't think the edit deserves to be applied.

If the suggested edit isn't bad, but not good, I would probably just Skip, and let someone else approve/improve/decline sub-par work.

If it looks reasonable, I will click Improve edit. For example, to change $sin$ to $\sin$, or adding \left and \right modifiers.

But if there are trivial things let undone, I usually Reject and edit. I do this if there are braces missing or other trivial things (and more than one) that the editor should have done.

• I reject these edits also, and usually the site tells me that the edit has been approved in the interim.
– MJD
Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 15:36
• @MJD Has never happened to me before. I have reviewed approximately 300 edits I think. Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 15:43
• @Najib: To quote from the 10k tools, in the last 30 days there were 2354 approved edits; 397 rejected; and 367 which were approved despite being rejected once. Only 533 of those were improved in the process.
– Asaf Karagila Mod
Commented Jul 25, 2015 at 12:52

It depends. The example you give suggests you're talking about those cases where the preview makes it quite obvious that there's more to it than just adding dollar signs.

If someone knows about the dollar signs, they should also know about at least some of the more basic braces and slashes. And if that someone takes the trouble to click "edit" because something about the presentation is bothering him, does it make any sense for him to pay no attention to the preview?

I think it's a judgement call, it boils down to assessing whether it's willful laziness or just a couple of instances that fell through the cracks (especially in very long posts for which the preview might run slow). In the former I might reject, in the latter I would either improve the edit or skip (hopefully the next person who goes through the queue has the time and inclination to improve the edit).

By the way, benefit of the doubt should be given to those who don't know about big parentheses, e.g.,

The Legendre symbol $(\frac a p )$ is...

• I never hold it against people for not being familiar with \left\right modifiers.
– Asaf Karagila Mod
Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 11:11