[texhax] help with identifying some macros

Toby Cubitt tsc25 at cantab.net
Mon Oct 19 00:35:08 CEST 2009

> >I wonder if we're not better off as we are, with (more or less) a unique
> >command for each unique symbol.
> The problem is that the meaning of the expression gets lost, we are
> doing a visual representaion of an equation, but the underlying
> meaning is lost.
> For example where I work some people use the notation
> X \sim N(0,1)
> to say taht X is a stochastic variable which has a normal
> distribution, whereas
> x \sim\sim N(0,1)
> is an observation from such a variable.
> Reading that makes no sense at all, but using better names for
> symbols it becomes much more readable.
> X \DistAs N(0,1)
> x \ObsFromDist N(0,1)

The trouble is, another author might use some other set of names to mean
exactly the same thing, such as

X \distributedas N(0,1)

X \sampledfrom N(0,1)

At least sighted people can easily look at the typeset output and see
that these both produce the same notation, which makes it a bit easier to
guess that they mean the same thing. A blind person might have to trawl
through many layers of LaTeX code to discover that.

I always try to define "semantic" aliases for notation, for exactly the
reasons you listed, and others too: it makes it clearer for coauthors, it
even makes it clearer for myself when I come to read it a few months
later! And it lets me easily change the notation if I need to, just by
changing one preamble definition.

But, not being blind myself, I can't really say what whether the benefits
of better symbol names would outweigh the disadvantage of there being
many different author-specific variants that mean the same thing.

One thing's clear: it wouldn't be a bad idea if authors put some
consideration into making LaTeX readable for blind people. (At least,
it's not something that had ever occurred to me before the discussions on
this list.)


Dr T. S. Cubitt
Quantum Information Theory group
Department of Mathematics
University of Bristol
United Kingdom

email: tsc25 at cantab.net
web: www.dr-qubit.org

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