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Formatting Math as Text (page 3 of 4)

Sections: Common algebra notation, Set and logical notation, Other math notation, Notes on posting

The following table includes geometric, trigonometric, probability, and aditional algebraic notation.






Put parentheses around the argument of any function, including sine and cosine.



If you're squaring the sine, put the power on the sine.



Use parentheses to make clear that you mean "sine of 2x", not "the square of the sine of x".



To indicate "degrees", either write the word out or (on a PC), hold down the "ALT" key and type "0176" to insert the character directly.

Greek letter: theta


As long as you define yourself, it's okay to use "@" for "theta". Otherwise, spell it out, or pick a Latin letter.

Greek letter: beta


You can (on a PC) insert a character similar to "beta" by holding down the "ALT" key and typing "0223" on the numeric keypad. Otherwise, spell out the name, or replace "beta" in your exercise with a Latin letter.

Greek letter: pi


Do not use "m" or "n" to stand for "pi", since m and n are variables and pi is a number. Instead, spell out the name. (And please spell it correctly. It's "pi", not "pye" or "pie".) You may find it helpful to use parentheses, as in "sin[(2/3)(pi)]".



When writing complex numbers, just use the "i" as usual.



The natural exponential e is a commonly-known value, just like pi. You don't have define what e is in your post.


cos(x) + isin(x)

Not everybody is familiar with the "cis" notation. If you use it, define it first, so they know you mean what is shown in the first line.

angle A

angle A

If you use the "less-than sign, angle name" format, define what you mean. Otherwise, you'll leave people wondering what, exactly, is less than A.

measure of angle A

measure of A

If you use "m(A)", state that this means "the measure of angle A".



Most tutors are familiar with the "mCn" abbreviation for the formula for combinations, but it wouldn't hurt to define it if you use it.



Most tutors are familiar with the "mPn" abbreviation for the formula for permuations, but it wouldn't hurt to define it if you use it.

(2, 3)


Use parentheses around points. Other symbols (or no symbols) mean other things.

the interval [2, infinity)

[2, inf.)
[2, infinity)

The abbreviation "inf." in the context of intervals (and limits) is commonly understood to mean "infinity", but you can spell it out completely, if you'd like. Just don't try to approximate the "infinity" symbol with two lower-case O's, as this is very confusing.

the vector <2, 3>

<2, 3>

You can use the "less than" and "greater than" signs for vectors.

u dot v

u * v

As long as you define the asterisk to mean the dot product, you can use this for dotting two vectors. Use generous spacing.

u cross v

u Χ v

Don't use the letter "X" between the vectors, as this will be confused as being a third vector. Instead, either spell out "cross" or else (on a PC) hold down the "ALT" key and type "0215" on the numeric keypad, using generous spacing so your meaning is clear.



Write the transpose of a matrix using superscript notation.



Write the inverse of a matrix using superscript notation.

matrix [[1 2 3][4 5 6][7 8 9]] 

[[1 2 3] 
[4 5 6]
[7 8 9]]

Matrices are just about impossible to format with text. The bracket design, using outer brackets for the matrix and inner brackets for the rows, has arisen from graphing-calculator notation. Be sure to say what you mean by this, and try to use "CODE" or "PRE" tags or a fixed-width font.

determinant ||1 2 3||4 5 6||7 8 9||

||1 2 3| 
|4 5 6|
|7 8 9||

Determinants are also hard to format with only text. Use bars (the "pipe" character, shown as a broken line on your keyboard, somewhere above the "Enter" key) to delineate the rows.



If you use the absolute-value-bar notation for the determinant, state what you mean.



Whatever notation you use for a summation, be sure to define what you mean by restating the first summation in words.

Notes on posting  Copyright © Elizabeth Stapel 1999-2009 All Rights Reserved

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Cite this article as:

Stapel, Elizabeth. "Formatting Math as Text: Other Math Notation." Purplemath. Available from Accessed


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