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Topic: TeX and typing
Replies: 5   Last Post: Jul 9, 1996 9:07 AM

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Steve Brewster

Posts: 3
Registered: 12/12/04
TeX and typing
Posted: Jul 5, 1996 12:26 PM
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The thread on mathematical typesetting software got me thinking about
the general business of mathematical writing; here are a few thoughts
for you to tear into at will.

Once upon a time - I know it's true, I read about it in history books -
a mathematical manuscript would go through a couple of handwritten
versions; the author would then pass the final draft to a typist,
who would type all the words and whatever mathematical symbols
she (it was usually a she) could find on her typewriter. Faced with
complicated symbols or equations on separate lines, she would
leave appropriate space. The author would then go through the
typescript (plus the one or two carbons) and fill in the missing
mathematics. So complicated mathematical expressions had to
be dealt with quite separately from the main text.

Now TeX, on the other hand, enables the author to deal with the
text and the mathematics at the same time, and I think that this
might be the root of some of the problems which some people have with
it. Typesetting a complicated formula in TeX takes time; rather
more time, perhaps, than it took to type the previous paragraph
of text. (This is my experience; I admit this may be down to
my laziness with the typing tutor - I abandoned it as soon as
I could type _words_ with fluidity, so consequently I'm great
on the alphabetical keys but poor on /, #, ( and so on.)
As a result, my own LaTeX output tends to be very wordy, with
lots of short diversions into math mode ($x$, $y$ etc.) but
few displayed-math formulae. (If I'm allowed to add a personal
quibble here, it annoys me that TeX interprets blank lines
as paragraph breaks: this prevents me from breaking up the
TeX source as I'd like. Yes, I know I could comment out
blank lines with a %, but there's a principle involved here,
grumble, grumble. I'd prefer an end-of-paragraph marker a la

Perhaps all I've said here is that TeX allows me to write bad
mathematics (or mathematics badly). Any thoughts? In particular,
is it a bad idea to compose in TeX rather than doing it in
longhand first?

<Steve.Brewster@Bristol.ac.uk> ... http://zeus.Bristol.ac.uk/~masjb
It's either real or it's a dream; there's nothing that is inbetween.

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