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This meta-query discusses the following question:

Q1: How can I create a specific mathematical expression in a mathSE query?


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Much of the information that a user would want is contained in the following links:

However, I feel it is important to go beyond the information included in these links. I think that many new users are going to shy away from delving into the MathJax links, when all they want to know is how to format a specific symbol.

I expect a new mathSE user to opt for the path of least resistance. By providing the information in a consolidated manner to the new user, mathSE has:

  • discouraged the new user from creating a mathSE query re MathJax, as has been done

  • provided information re shortcuts that will be very attractive re the path of least resistance

  • related to the previous point, these shortcuts could actually discourage new users from posting poorly formatted queries. Admittedly, this particular point is very iffy.

  • contrasted MathJax against Latex to give the new user the opportunity to understand (somewhat) the website's formatting process

  • provided definitive native Latex information re the Tex forum, the CTAN pdf, and simply googling.

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This query was inspired by a first query. Because my query focuses on the use of mathJax, I feel that it is more appropriate that this query be posted on meta-mathSE, rather than mathSE.

As in the first query, I am going to start the discussion with my own answer.

I favor the approach from the first query, which I am excerpting:

I will provide an answer below, but feel free to edit my answer or provide your own answer. Initially it will be a short list, but maybe it will grow over time. Please regard this question and its answers as a community resource.

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    $\begingroup$ I am a little confused about what your questions is. It seems to be either a duplicate of the MathJax Tutorial, or a way to search for things with symbols. Based on your self-answer, I am inclined to close this as a duplicate of the first question. $\endgroup$ – Xander Henderson Nov 2 '20 at 20:44
  • $\begingroup$ @XanderHenderson The point of the meta-query is to provide a general procedure of finding the appropriate symbol or method of expression. It is true that many (perhaps even most) of such questions can be answered (after a time) by working through the MathJax Tutorial. However, it is often easier to consult other sources, such as one of the sandboxes. Also, it is often easier to simply copy someone else's syntax than manually create your own. ...see next comment $\endgroup$ – user2661923 Nov 2 '20 at 20:52
  • $\begingroup$ Also, I think that it is often useful to understand the native latex method and then contrast it with alterations needed for MathJax. For example, the use of <br> for line break. Or the use of $\underline{\text{my underlined text}}$ for underlining. Or, if the use of \; for spacing doesn't seem to be working correctly, you can substitute ~. $\endgroup$ – user2661923 Nov 2 '20 at 20:54
  • $\begingroup$ @user2661923 I think it is better to have all the MathJax "help" in a single location. Starting a new question like this will just mean that your question+answer slides into obscurity; I do not think meta is well-suited to storing resources like this. (As a side issue, I think it is odd that the MathJax tutorial takes the form it does. Although it is probably helpful for seasoned users, I cannot imagine it being helpful for new users. I do quite like the basic help bit though. It is nice and simple.) $\endgroup$ – user1729 Nov 3 '20 at 9:48
  • $\begingroup$ @user2661923 I don't think the reason for the closure is "they don't see the additional information as important", but rather about they way you presented it. Possibly it would be better if you asked a question asking "I think this information is important because.... However, I do not think it is a good fit for the MathJax Tutorial thread, because.... Is there anything we can do about this?" $\endgroup$ – user1729 Nov 3 '20 at 11:13
  • $\begingroup$ @user2661923 I interpreted the marking as a duplicate as an implicit suggestion that you write the answer there. People often don't comment in these kinds of situations, which can be annoying but also you have to remember that people are busy. Regarding your second comment: I have no strong feelings either way about this information. If you think it is important then it is your responsibility to work out how to make it work. $\endgroup$ – user1729 Nov 3 '20 at 11:36
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For the broad question of how to format miscellaneous symbols or math expressions, you have the following resources:

  1. https://math.stackexchange.com/help/notation.

  2. mathSE has two different sandboxes that can each be explored to see how others have formatted a wide variety of (typically math) expressions:

    Sandbox for drafts of long, complex posts

    Formatting Sandbox

    If you see formatting that you like, you can pretend that you wish to edit the answer. Simply select edit and then copy the portion of the original formatting that you like.

    Then very carefully cancel the edit, so that the original answer is undisturbed.

  3. Of course, this approach can also be taken on any mathSE query or answer that contains formatting syntax that you wish to copy. In fact, when providing an answer to someone else's query, you can consider the shortcut of pretending to edit the query that you are answering, copying part of the query's syntax, and pasting it directly into your answer.

  4. Downloading the following pdf and then doing a search on the pertinent string:

    http://tug.ctan.org/info/symbols/comprehensive/symbols-a4.pdf

  5. Exploring or posting a new query on https://tex.stackexchange.com/. This is where these questions are normally handled.

  6. Google on the appropriate phrase. For example, to search for the latex syntax for the integral sign, you can google something like : latex integral.

  7. I think that as a new user transitions to an intermediate knowledge of MathJax and Latex, it will become useful to understand the native Latex method and
    contrast it with the alterations needed for MathJax. Examples: the use of <br> for line breaks; the use of $\underline{\text{my underlined text}}$ for underlining; if the use of \; for spacing doesn't seem to be working correctly (perhaps in longer queries), substituting for it with ~.

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