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Typographical rules for scientific texts

In scientific texts the printed form of a symbol often implies a meaning which is not easily captured by generic markup. Therefore authors using some form of generic coding (like LATEX or SGML) need to know about typographical conventions. The following is a brief summary of the most important rules for composing scientific texts[1,2].

  1. The most important rule is consistency: a symbol should always be the same, whether it appears in a formula or in the text, on the main line or as a superscript or subscript. I.e. in TEX, once you have used a symbol inside mathematics mode ('$'), always use it inside mathematics mode. Inside math mode, TEX by default prints characters in italics.

    For scientific work, however, quite a few symbols must be set in roman (upright) characters1. This is the case for the following families of symbols, which represent the names of:

    In all cases, following these rules will help the reader understand at first glance what one is talking about. Some instances in which it is important to use the correct symbol, in the correct type, are shown in the table below:

    roman type italic type
    A ampere (electric unit) $A$ atomic number (variable)
    e electron (particle name) $e$ electron charge (constant)
    g gluon (particle name) $g$ gravitational constant
    l litre (volume unit) $l$ length (variable)
    m metre (length unit) $m$ mass (variable)
    p proton (particle name) $p$ momentum (variable)
    q quark (particle name) $q$ electric charge (variable)
    s second (time unit) $s$ c.m. energy squared (variable)
    t tonne (weight unit) $t$ time (variable)
    V volt (electric unit) $V$ volume (variable)
    Z Z boson (particle name) $Z$ atomic charge (variable)

  2. Let your word processor do as much work as it can. Do not try to change your system's defaults too much; this will decrease the portability and maintainability of your documents. TEX implements part of the rules mentioned above by default in math mode.
  3. Do not add blanks at random to make formulae look ``nicer'`.
  4. Restrain from using specific page layout commands (like \break with TEX). You will forget that you put them in your text and later wonder why some text is badly adjusted or starts a new line.


next up previous
Next: Entity definitions for elementary Up: The Elementary Particle Entity Previous: The Elementary Particle Entity
Michel Goossens 2005-01-27