If I write \underset{x\in A}{\mathrm{sup}} in $\TeX$, it looks like this: $$ \underset{x\in A}{\mathrm{sup}} $$ If I write \sup_{x\in A}, it looks like this: $$ \sup_{x\in A} $$ The latter usage, besides being simpler, has other features that the former lacks contrast this:

a \underset{x\in A}{\mathrm{sup}} b

with this:

a \sup_{x\in A} b:

$$ a \underset{x\in A}{\mathrm{sup}} b $$ $$ a \sup_{x\in A} b $$

The latter standard usage provides spacing before and after "$\sup$" and the former does not. Simple standard commands like these are intended to make it unnecessary for the writer to attend to such things.

When I see something like the former usage in a posting, and change it to the latter, and point out all of the above in a comment, often the poster has thanked me for informing them of features of $\TeX$ that they didn't know about. None of them has ever complained after I did this. But here I find Michael Greinecker saying I'm "imposing [my] aesthetic standards on others" by doing this (the example he was commenting on was exactly the same two bits of $\TeX$ code you see above). He didn't say whether he'd apply the same comment to spelling corrections.

Is informing people in this way of standard $\TeX$ features that they didn't know about a bad thing?

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    $\begingroup$ I think that you brought this on meta before, and it was somewhat agreed (as far as I remember it, anyway) that unless the "bad" code interferes with readability (e.g. in the second example) there is no point in actually correcting. You can always leave a comment for future reference. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila May 20 '12 at 17:20
  • $\begingroup$ If there's no point, then why do posters thank me for pointing out features they were unaware of? $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy May 20 '12 at 17:22
  • $\begingroup$ In the second case, where the use of mathrm makes it more difficult to read, I think it is a good idea to edit and inform others. For the first case, I am not so sure. I personally would be happy if I were told about TeX features I was not fully utilizing, but others may find it pedantic. $\endgroup$ – Eric Naslund May 20 '12 at 17:25
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    $\begingroup$ @Michael: Because it's nice when someone tells you on something you were not aware of. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila May 20 '12 at 17:25
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelHardy: Please see the discussion at meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/3299/… There is no point in posting a new question. $\endgroup$ – Michael Greinecker May 20 '12 at 20:18
  • $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila : That's exactly what I was saying. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy May 20 '12 at 21:46
  • $\begingroup$ There is a nontrivial distance between correcting people "for next time" and enforcing your $\LaTeX$ standards where it does not improve readability. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila May 20 '12 at 21:52
  • $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila : It improves the posting for everyone who would use the posting to learn $\TeX$. And people use others' postings to learn $\TeX$ all the time with other people's postings, if I'm not mistaken. At least, they ought to. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy May 20 '12 at 22:08
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    $\begingroup$ I look at the banner in the heading, and I look and I look... I agree it says mathematics, and indeed it is the right place to learn mathematics. I fail to locate the "TeX" related subtitle, though. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila May 20 '12 at 22:15
  • $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila : It doesn't say "English" either, yet people whose native language is something other than English are improving their understanding of English by reading postings here, and I think that is also as it ought to be. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy May 20 '12 at 22:17
  • $\begingroup$ You forget that TeX is not read directly. It is a tool for readability. Correcting typos and grammar helps reading better. Improving the code makes no difference to readability. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila May 20 '12 at 22:21
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    $\begingroup$ But as I said, imrpoving $\TeX$ code is helpful to those who enhance their knowledge of $\TeX$ by looking at the $\TeX$ code, and badly written $\TeX$ code is a disservice to them. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy May 20 '12 at 22:23
  • $\begingroup$ I'm with those who say you edit other people's work to improve readability, not to teach them (or others) about TeX. If you want to teach, leave a comment; that has much greater visibility than an edit. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson May 20 '12 at 23:44
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelHardy: Since LaTeX is, at this time, the standard for mathematical typesetting, any help that people get should be welcome. $\endgroup$ – André Nicolas May 21 '12 at 2:44
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure to whom Michael's last comment is addressed. If a question is on the front page already, I will edit even if it's only to turn an incorrect it's into an its, if I'm in a mood to do so. In another mood, I'll let even egregious assaults on the English language pass by uncorrected, so long as intelligibility is unaffected; fractured English can be charming. If it's off the front page, I'll certainly let language errors go by (again, so long as intelligibility is unaffected). I try not to object to edits made by others less lax than I am. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson May 21 '12 at 5:16

I think that if readability is not concerned, then it is nice to comment with or without an edit. The thing that is important is that if the author of the post rolls the edit back (or does not appreciate the comment), then rolled back it is.

Potentially helpful comments are fine, but since efficient tex code is not the point of this side, one then has to take responsibility for avoiding an off-topic dispute.

  • $\begingroup$ I've never seen an instance where a dispute ensued, and I've probably done hundreds of such edits. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy May 21 '12 at 1:18
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    $\begingroup$ Your comment does not respond to my answer. There have already been at least three such disputes on meta because you cannot just accept a single comment critical to your editing practices. Based on this, I cannot just assume that you would accept posters who roll back your edits, so I pointed out this aspect. Saying "It never happened" is not exactly reassuring that you will be able to accept it when it happens. $\endgroup$ – Phira May 21 '12 at 9:16
  • $\begingroup$ I was responding to the second paragraph of the answer. On quite a few occasions, I've pointed out TeX features that a poster didn't know about, and many times they've thanked me for pointing it out, and in no such case did a dispute follow, as far as I know. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy May 21 '12 at 21:33

Your original post lacked context:

But I often edit TeX style and then comment, saying what I did. E.g. someone wrote \underset{x\in A}{\mathrm{sup}} or something like that and I changed it to \sup_{x\in A} and explained in the comments.

In general, they look very different: $\underset{x\in A}{\mathrm{sup}}$ vs. $\sup_{x\in A}$.

  • $\begingroup$ You overlook the obvious: \displaystyle\sup_{x\in A} is the standard way to get "$\displaystyle\sup_{x\in A}$" and is simpler. Would it not be cruel to withhold such things from those who don't know about them, so that they have to use numerous different complicated things that accomplish what displaystyle does in various settings. The software is sophisticated; it's not so crude and primitive that you need to grunt like that. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy May 20 '12 at 21:44
  • $\begingroup$ Not all $\sup$ are in a \displaystyle environment. Sometimes it is good not to break the lines. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila May 20 '12 at 21:53
  • $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila : I certainly agree with that. But on those occasions when "displaystyle" is appropriate, it's better to use "displaystyle" than to use \underset plus \mathrm plus spacing-before-and-after plus whichever other features (such as, in some cases, \overset) in the particular situation would have been provided by displaystyle. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy May 20 '12 at 22:04
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    $\begingroup$ I would use $a\sup\limits_{x\in A} f(x)$; $a\sup\limits_{x\in A} f(x)$ (instead of adding \displaystyle). See also tex.stackexchange.com/questions/56450/my-limits-are-moved at TeX.SE. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak May 21 '12 at 6:11

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