Difference between revisions of "The order of terms matters even when they commute"

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[[Category:Inconsistencies]]
[[Category:Inconsistencies]]
[[Category:Unspoken conventions]]


When writing an expression that consists of several terms, the conventions regarding their order appear arbitrary.  
When writing an expression that consists of several terms, the conventions regarding their order appear arbitrary.  

Revision as of 09:41, 15 July 2021


When writing an expression that consists of several terms, the conventions regarding their order appear arbitrary.


Multiplication

It is usual to write:

  • \(xy\) and \(yx\) in either order;
  • \(5t\) but not \(t5\) (to avoid confusion with \(t_5\) or \(t^5\));
  • \(x\sqrt{2}\) but not \(\sqrt{2}x\) (to avoid confusion with \(\sqrt{2x}\)). (See Something on the right of a radical)
  • \(\sqrt{2}\sin x\) but not \(\sin x \sqrt{2}\) (to avoid confusion with \(\sin \left(x\sqrt{2}\right)\)).

Addition

People sometimes rearrange a sum to avoid a leading unary minus, even when this contradicts the convention of writing terms in decreasing order of degree:

\[ 1 - x \]

instead of

\[ -x + 1 \]