Category Archives: writing

Writing Mathematics in Pencil, and Why Analogue is Not Dead

It’s an old joke that mathematicians need just a pencil, paper, and a bin, while philosophers are even more frugal because they don’t need the bin. Yet nowadays more and more of the time of mathematicians, indeed all scientists, is … Continue reading

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Hyphenation of Compound Words

Compound words are common in mathematical writing and it can be hard to remember how to hyphenate them. Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules. In this article I give some guidance and illustrative examples. The principle to keep … Continue reading

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Hyphenation Question: Row-wise or Rowwise?

Sam Clark of T&T Productions, the copy editor for the third edition of MATLAB Guide (co-authored with Des Higham and to be published by SIAM in December 2016), recently asked whether we would like to change “row-wise” to “rowwise”. A … Continue reading

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Acronymous Thoughts

According to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary (COD, 11th ed., 2004), “An acronym is a word formed from the initial letters of other words”. Here are some well-known examples. AIDS: acquired immune deficiency syndrome, laser: light amplification by stimulated emission … Continue reading

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The Serial, or Oxford, Comma

In the sentence The great historical heroes of applied mathematics include Archimedes, Newton, Euler, and Gauss. the comma before the “and” is known as a serial comma. Whether or not to include it is a matter of style. The serial … Continue reading

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Typesetting Mathematics According to the ISO Standard

In The Princeton Companion to Applied Mathematics we used the conventions that the constants e (the base of the natural logarithm) and i (the imaginary unit), and the d in derivatives and integrals, are typeset in an upright font. These … Continue reading

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Punctuating Lists

Lists are common in all forms of writing. The list items can be included within the text or put on separate lines. Separate lines are used in order to draw attention to the items, to ease reading when the items … Continue reading

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More Tips on Book and Thesis Writing

Following my earlier post Top Five Tips on Book Writing, here are seven more tips. These apply equally well to writing a thesis. 1. Signpost Citations In academic writing we inevitably include a fair number of citations to entries in … Continue reading

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Top Five Tips on Book Writing

I’ve written four books, and am currently writing and editing a fifth (The Princeton Companion to Applied Mathematics). I am also an editor of two SIAM book series and chair the SIAM Book Committee. Based on this experience here are … Continue reading

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The Spotlight Factor

In my Handbook of Writing for the Mathematical Sciences I described the spotlight factor, originally introduced by Tompa in 1989. The spotlight factor is defined for the first author of a paper in which there are authors listed alphabetically, and … Continue reading

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