6

I am working on a research paper where I am trying to format values in a table: From −0.2 to −0.14. Is this formatting correct?

-0.2 - -0.14

Another question: From −3 to 3. Is this correct?

-3-3
  • 2
    Is this really an Academia question as defined by the charter? (It's a reasonable question for a discussion more focused on LaTeX and related...) – keshlam Jul 12 '15 at 22:42
4

You probably need to use the right kind of dashes. Most computer typesetting or word processing programs, including MS Word, LaTeX, support hypens, minus signs, en-dashes and em-dashes at the very least. The en-dash is usually used to give a range of numbers. I've tried to reproduce the way you would write this in LaTeX, but this particular StackExchange site doesn't appear to support MathJax which allows for inline LaTeX on websites.

$$ -0.2 -- -0.14 $$

and

$$ -3 -- 3 $$

Edited to add: The MathJax above might be a bit misleading. In a LaTeX table cell, I would probably write -3.5 -- 12.3 or whatever. I would probably use \text{} around it in math mode to prevent the dashes from being treated as unary minuses and allow the double-dash to become an en-dash. The numbers will render the same regardless. Neither of these things work well in MathJax, but they do something reasonable in true LaTeX files.

|improve this answer|||||
  • 2
    And if the OP has to format many values and ranges in LaTeX, I also suggest the usage of the package "siunitx" for a consistent management of the format throughout the paper. – Massimo Ortolano Jul 12 '15 at 17:35
  • 6
    @MichaelHardy, maybe you could have started with that comment then? Instead of lecturing me on how the word LaTeX was confusing? – Bill Barth Jul 12 '15 at 19:55
  • 4
    @MichaelHardy, saying someone is being "extraordinarily misleading" reads like an accusation of wrong doing, if you can't see that, you need to recalibrate your reading and writing filter. Also, "hopelessly lost" is another extreme statement that seems unlikely to me. I write things in MathJax all the time that I learned from LaTeX and find the translation pretty reasonable. It's hard to refer back to numbered equations, and a few other things, but MathJax is surprisingly LaTeX like. The fact that you think that average learners of MathJax will have no hope of learning LaTeX is telling. – Bill Barth Jul 13 '15 at 0:54
  • 5
    @MichaelHardy, but you might understand how your language here has been pretty accusatory since I can't see your intent from here. Hopelessly lost certainly sounds pretty hopeless to me. I agree that learning LaTeX is more than learning MathJax, but I never said it wasn't, I just said that people use LaTeX as a shorthand for the style of notation that's available in MathJax. There's no big danger here. Also, see my edit. – Bill Barth Jul 13 '15 at 1:01
  • 3
    @BillBarth I would try separate columns for the upper and lower bounds, and if that was ugly, I would seriously reconsider having a table full of ranges at all. – JeffE Jul 13 '15 at 1:22
18

Personally, I would definitely not use this type of formatting, as I think it is easy for people to confuse the various different types of dashes. Instead, I would recommend using the bracket format typically used for denoting intervals. Formatted in this manner, your examples would be:

[-0.2, -0.14]

[-3, 3]

|improve this answer|||||
  • Was just going to mention this. Definitely less ambiguous, especially if coupled with parens for exclusive intervals. – erip Jul 12 '15 at 23:37
  • 1
    This depends a lot on audience. The bracket/paren notation is excellently unambiguous for those familiar with it. That’s going to depend on field/audience. – KRyan Jul 13 '15 at 15:50
15

If using symbols causes confusion, then don't use symbols. Use words. For example, "-0.2 to -0.14" and "-3 to 3".

|improve this answer|||||
  • 3
    This is what the SI guide recommends:'this Guide strongly recommends that the word “to” be used to indicate a range of values for a quantity instead of a range dash'. +1 – Chris H Jul 13 '15 at 10:56
0

In order to cover all possible ranges (including negative) without confusion, I think that using either parentheses, or brackets, is much better than using any kinds of dashes. That is, for scientific data values. However, for those as well as for other types of values and their ranges, I would highly suggest consulting your publication style guide, which should take precedence over someone's preference. While, typically, style guides don't have strict rules on the subject, there might be some differences in that regard between publication styles, especially for some special cases, such as date ranges and page number ranges. For more details and some examples, see this blog post.

|improve this answer|||||

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.