2011-09-07 How not to typeset formulae (en)

I’m at a maths conference now, and thus I am exposed to numerous slides (usually done in whatever-TeX—beamer is quite popular, but one can encounter other tools, too; I’ll be probably the only one with ConTeXt-based slides, though;)). Today I saw something which really did bother me, to the extent that I’m going to warn all of you reading this: please don’t do that!

What was the offender? An innocent-looking pair of equations:

$ \vbox{\begin{gather*}\text{something}_1-\text{something else}_1+\text{yet another}_1=0\\
\text{something}_2+\text{something else}_2=\text{yet another}_2\end{gather*}} $

(let me add that all somethings in both equations were identical).

Now I understand that this is mathematically correct, but I daresay it’s typographically wrong. Very wrong. Just compare it to this:

$ \vbox{\begin{gather*}\text{something}_1-\text{something else}_1+\text{yet another}_1=0\\
\text{something}_2+\text{something else}_2-\text{yet another}_2=0\end{gather*}} $

See what I’m talking about? While these two equations were parallel, the author took some pains to actually hide this fact from the audience.

On a sidenote, I am curious why exactly did this guy do that? He must have done it on purpose, since the most natural way to typeset such a formula is to use kill-and-yank, er, sorry, copy-and-paste;). Perhaps it was a more or less subconscious way to avoid a minus in front of the former formula (and possibly a zero in the latter one), which seems to me almost atavistic.

And all this rant leads to a sad conclusion: do people at conferences really care about what they are trying to communicate? (Needless to say, this wasn’t the worst presentation, in fact, it was far from it; it was just an interesting mistake and that is why I decided to share it.)

CategoryEnglish, CategoryBlog, CategoryTeX, KategoriaTeX