In question titles, should "simple numbers" – those numbers that stand on their own and which do not require any $\TeX$ symbols to express cleanly – be put into MathJax anyway? Examples include 21 and 0.5.
On 1 March 2019 I answered a question in one of my pet topics: Is there any other number that has similar properties as $21$? The question got onto HNQ, and I edited the question's title twice in keeping with my intention to have no MathJax formatting around 21.
I was then suspended for a week, and I find the suspension silly.
After the end of said suspension I had a look at the meta questions and found this answer, which explains how questions with MathJax in their titles are excluded from HNQ and illustrates a possible consequence – something I had figured out by myself very early on. It says
I think this aspect [MathJax in title excludes a question from HNQ] should be considered when editing questions that can be useful to a broader audience, especially when the benefit of markup is purely cosmetic.
The reason given for my suspension was that I was promoting my answers by making irrelevant edits to the title to remove the MathJax. But I disagree with that reason. Before any edits, the 21 question's title did not have any MathJax. 21 versus $21$ is a purely cosmetic change, and I believed in good faith that the question would be useful more generally, so I hold that I was working to improve the formatting with my edits relevantly, and that adding MathJax here is superfluous.
My convention is to not put MathJax around simple numbers. I remember that MathWorld follows a similar practice, and I have two reasons for adhering to it:
- The MathJax fonts are different from the fonts used to render normal text, so looks slightly unnatural if it's a simple number that is under the formatting. Compare "42 centimetres" against "$42$ centimetres".
- Most of my answers are typed on the Android app, so I can answer on the go and exercise my brain (my mid-term tests at the National University of Singapore in mathematics and computer science were coming up at the time of my suspension). The $ and \ characters require multiple touches, so in the interests of time I avoid them if doing so does not affect the quality of the formatting.