101 reputation


I've been using LaTeX and MetaPost for about 10 years, occasionally playing with pure TeX. I read the newsgroup comp.text.tex regularly, and have learnt a lot from the wizards there.

I spend quite a lot of time reading manuals. When someone asks me for help, and the solution involves package foo, I strongly urge them to read the documentation for foo, or at the very least the part solving their problem.

Since I don't have a blog (or even an actively maintained website), let me put a small rant here:

I don't like to see when people (often beginners) get wrong answers, just because they did not ask the right question. A few examples should explain what I mean:

Q: How do I write $lcm(12,18)$ so that lcm comes out in roman?

A0 Use "lcm$(12,18)"

A1 $\mathrm{lcm}(12,18)$

A2 $\operatorname{lcm}(12,18)

A0 is obviously very wrong. The two others are not strictly wrong as they answer the question, but they don't answer the question the OP meant to ask, namely "How do I define my own operator, like \gcd". Often the beginner does not know that that is the Right Question, so it is up to those with experience to answer

A Use the \DeclareMathOperator from the amsmath package; say e.g. \DeclareMathOperator{\lcm}{lcm}.

While A2 comes close, we certainly don't want people to get the impression that they need to type 18 characters every time they want "lcm".

Another example is

Q How do I make a curly C?

Wrong A: \mathcal{C}

Right A: If you are writing about category theory, say, you can define a macro \cat which typesets its argument using a calligraphic math font: Just write \newcommand{\cat}[1]{\mathcal{#1}} in your preamble, and then use \cat{C} whenever you want to refer to the category C. If you later decide that you want to use boldface for categories instead, you just change \mathcal to \mathbf.