Common mistakes with mathematical signs & alphabetical statistical symbols

November 5, 2015

Dr. Jennifer C van Velkinburgh, Filipodia Publishing

 

In order to get a manuscript published, authors should not only carry out a rigorous study but also report their results in a concise and clear manner. In representing the data, mathematical signs are most commonly used. But correct use of mathematical signs, especially proper distinguishment between some of the similar ones, is something often addressed by editors.

 

Here are some tips for their proper use:

 

The use of the straight equals sign “=” vs. the wavy equals sign “?”

  • The straight equals sign refers to “the same as”, and is related to absolutes
  • The wavy equals sign refers to “approximately equal to”, and is related to approximations

The use of the en dash “-“ vs. the wavy dash “~”

  • The en dash refers to “a range with closed ends”
  • The wavy dash refers to “similar to; approximately”

The use of the open interval “(,)” vs. the closed interval “[,]”

  • The open interval refers to “an interval without upper and lower boundaries”
  • The closed interval refers to “an interval that includes its end points”

The use of lowercase p-value vs. uppercase P-value

  • The lowercase p-value refers to the probability test in statistics
  • The uppercase P value refers to “power,” the rate of doing work in physics
  • Nevertheless, different journals may have different requirements for the statistical terms.Always defer to your target journal’s specific requirements and keep the presentation consistent throughout.

The use of italics vs. non-italics for mathematical signs

  • Most of the statistic symbols and variables are italicized
  • Greek letters, such as the chi square symbol ?, and any subscripts and superscripts are non-italicized

Again, different journals may have different requirements for the statistical terms. Always defer to your target journal’s specific requirements and keep the presentation consistent throughout.

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