Monday, January 14, 2013

On Notation

I've spent the last week (and counting) trying to fix the notation in a long document that I've been writing, off and on, over the last 18 months. Since I wrote in fits and starts, I wasn't generally consistent with the notation, always thinking I could just fix it at the end. So when the end came, the results were predictably disastrous.

But I've had a long time to think/swear about notation, and I made some observations:

(Sorry for the image, it's much easier than trying to put LaTeX into Blogger.)

I used to think that there should be a notation stylebook, one notation to rule them all. Or that I would, once and for all, teach my graduate students the "right" notation. But now I don't think that's possible: there simply aren't enough degrees of freedom in a concise, readable notation to make it also rigorous and universally consistent. And you have to favor readability over universality, or what is a notation for?

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