Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Where x drives me mad

There is a common style in technical writing, where you state a formula, and then explain what the various terms mean.  For example, for a short formula, you might write this inline as:
E = m c2, where m is the mass and c is the speed of light.
If the formula gets too long, you can display the formula on a line by itself, and put the explanatory ‘where’ clause on a new line:
E = m c2
where m is the mass and c is the speed of light.
Aside: I have removed the punctuation after the displayed equation.  People, and style manuals, argue about whether it should be retained or not.  My argument is: extra punctuation in a mathematical formula might be confused as a symbol of the formula; the end of line provides visible punctuation; I leave it out.  Others disagree.  But that is for a different post, probably on a different blog.  Here I have a different peeve.

The above is common usage, but I have been noticing a different form:
E = m c2
Where m is the mass and c is the speed of light.
Where did that capital letter come from?  It’s not the start of a new sentence!  And the where clause isn’t a well-formed sentence, anyway!!

Personally, I blame MSWord and the like, that oh so helpfully auto‘correct’ words that start a new line to start with a capital letter.  (Yes, I know this can be switched off: I have switched it off.  But many people don’t know, and haven’t.)

I have been patiently (most of the time, anyway) correcting my students when they do this. But now I have noticed people doing it in LaTeX documents, which (probably) means they are doing it deliberately.


As Bob the Angry Flower would say: No! Wrong! Totally Wrong! Stop doing it!

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