# How to deal with users consistently posting answers without LaTeX?

The title says it all, is there a way to get in contact which users who consistently post answers without using $$\LaTeX$$? I've come across a user who does that and (as I had some free time) edited about 10-15 of his posts, some of his answers were barely readable; on each post I left a comment including a link to the MathJax tutorial. He still keeps posting answers without using $$\LaTeX$$, so is there anything else besides editing and commenting one can do?

• Closely related Is it okay to post solutions without using LaTeX – quid Aug 8 '15 at 17:40
• $\LaTeX$ is expected from users. If a user is new, it is fine to direct the user to the tutorial in meta. If the user is not new and insists on not using $\LaTeX$ one can always point this out and/or downvote if it is unreadable. – Pedro Tamaroff Aug 8 '15 at 17:58
• Call me old-fashioned, but I would not insist on new users learning TeX right away unless they ask about such complicated formulas that are unreadable otherwise. "We managed just fine with 7-bit ascii in the usenet era. Now get off my lawn!" – Jyrki Lahtonen Aug 8 '15 at 18:31
• Old Man @Jyrki: I think the post is not about new users, but rather users who have been using the site for a while. – Asaf Karagila Aug 9 '15 at 5:06
• I'm indeed not talking about new users; I still remember the first time I tried to use $\LaTeX$, so I know how difficult it can be. The user I have in mind already had posted 30+ answers, so he is not new to this site. – Hirshy Aug 9 '15 at 7:22
• Large scale cull? – snulty Aug 10 '15 at 11:09
• One possibility would be to refer the user to LyX (lyx.org). I myself mostly type my equations in LyX and export the result as LaTeX. It is much more convenient (at least for me). – PhoemueX Aug 11 '15 at 16:44
• So he got about a dozen comments telling him to look at a TeX tutorial? I think you've done all you can. If I got a dozen comments like that I would say hey, maybe I need to learn this TeX stuff. – user153918 Aug 11 '15 at 18:02
• Yes, he got that. And I just checked, 5hours ago he again posted an answer which needed editing. Funny thing: he used TeX-commands but in a non-readable way with $...$ tags. – Hirshy Aug 11 '15 at 19:14
• See my previous question here. – 6005 Aug 13 '15 at 18:09
• Huge pet peeve of mine. We use MathJax here! LaTeX is a word processor, something different even though the commands are the same – gen-ℤ ready to perish Jun 4 '20 at 6:08

It works like this. People can post solutions to problems all they want without MathJax/LaTeX, which is the lingua franca here. I do not have to bother reading their solution. If the OP believes it unfair that his/her solution does not get the requisite attention, then they can continue to post as they always have with the same results.

I had a situation today in which someone posted a poorly-formatted solution, which had fatal problems unrelated to the poor formatting. The poster was incredulous when I told him his derivation was too hard to follow for me to provide any useful feedback. Nothing I could do for that guy (who indeed deleted his answer eventually.)

• This is the most reasonable course, I think. To use an analogy: nobody's stopping you from writing grant proposals in green crayon, but don't expect a grant proposal written in that manner to be taken too seriously. – J. M. isn't a mathematician Aug 12 '15 at 16:44
• @Guesswhoitis.: Or the adult equivalent of crayons, MS Comic Sans and Zapf Dingbat.... :-) – Asaf Karagila Aug 19 '15 at 17:01

I know of some experienced users on Math.SE who regularly post excellent answers, but due to physical disabilities or technological inexpertise have a lot of difficulty typing in $\LaTeX$.

I'm not saying all users have an actual problem, but for the sake of those who do, it's worth giving them the benefit of the doubt.

To @NajibIdrissi's comment - People who have sight problems may not use regular monitors or browsers, and can't always see the outputted $\LaTeX$, so I can understand that they’d rather not type it in the first place. As for technical expertise, Learning such skills above a certain age may not be trivial, and there's no reason why we'd want to lose a professional (though older) Mathematician just because it means some of us younger members will have to do some editing work.

• I'll probably sound ignorant, but how does a physical disability can allow someone to type an answer but prevent them from typing in latex commands? (Technological inexpertise isn't an excuse.) – Najib Idrissi Aug 10 '15 at 10:35
• If you want to notify someone, you cannot do it with an edit... @-style notifications don't work that way. I don't really understand your point about visually impaired people: they wouldn't be able to see ASCII-style math either. And I'd like to think that the people who use this website in the first place are intelligent enough to learn mathjax regardless of age... "Nontrivial" isn't "impossible". I've seen plenty of older people being able to type their answers in mathjax. – Najib Idrissi Aug 10 '15 at 19:19

A constructive suggestion to the Stack Exchange features:

a) Why not implement $\LaTeX$ auto completion/suggestion for the $\LaTeX$ users?

b) If somebody is posting in plain text, suggest (and possibly auto insert) $\LaTeX$ tags. This is very much possible and a very good feature to see in the stack exchange community.

• (a) would be nice, but I think this would be too low on the priority list for developers to actually get done. If one still wanted to take this approach, there are a bunch of online LaTeX generators with GUIs that could be recommended to new users. (First page of Googling gave me this, for example.) – Alexander Gruber Aug 16 '15 at 20:17
• To test the feasibility of this idea, here's the first snippet of plain text I encountered: "since in the sets A = {1,2} B = {3,4} C={5,6} |AxBxC| = 2*2*2 = 8, but |Ax(BxC)| would be 2*(2*2) = 2*(4) = also 8...". We can see x being used for the direct product: how would we automatically distinguish that from ax where it's used as a variable? We see {1,2} B: how would an algorithm determine there is a space between {1,2} and B, and this is not multiplication? And when is * multiplication, and when is it an asterisk? I don't think this would be an easy task to implement. – Rebecca J. Stones Aug 21 '15 at 23:15

ASCII is more universal than LaTeX. Where's the problem?