1. caters
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    caters Member

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    Equations considered gramatical fragments?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by caters, May 1, 2014.

    I often think of an equation as a sentence because 202/9≈22 is the same as "two hundred two divided by nine approximately equals 22" just 1 is in words and the other is numerical. I am still working on my series of novels and I have gotten to a part of a chapter where a lot of math is done and I want to write it numerically because of these reasons:

    1) when it is written in mathematical(or numerical) form it is easier to read than in word form

    2) This will give examples of certain things in math like approximation to people who either don't know it or don't use it much and thus don't remember how it is done

    However when I put it in Microsoft Word in the mathematical or numerical form it says it is a fragment and should be combined in a sentence. I'm sorry but if I put in "225/10≈23, 225-23=202 etc. it seems like there are too many sentences in 1.

    Equations are mathematical sentences and should be treated as complete sentences in word processors.
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    :confused:

    Perhaps you are like this savant I heard talk about his world today on the news:
    From math failure to savant: How a mugging made a numbers whiz
    Looking for this gentleman I found another:
    When a Blow to the Head Creates a Sudden Genius
    The thing was these guys see the mathematical relationship without having to do the translation the rest of us need to do. It reminded me of when I realized I could think in Spanish without the step of translating.


    ... or maybe I'm just way off base.
     
  3. caters
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    caters Member

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    I seem to have the problem of sentence fragments for equations only when using the approximately equals symbol
     
  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think that you can trust the MS Word grammar checker to tell you how to correctly format or grammatically arrange mathematical equations. I think I'd sooner take advice on that subject from, oh, a cat. Or a philodendron.
     
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  5. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with this. Philodendrons are excellent mathematicians.
     
  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    They leaf me cold.

    @caters - you mentioned a "series of novels". How critical are the actual equations to your story? What purpose do they serve for the reader? If you are planning on publication, you need to consider how the average reader will react. It's entirely possible that a good many readers might not even be able to understand the equation if it is at all complex (and you wouldn't be looking to include it if it wasn't).

    You're right when you say equations are mathematical sentences (so said Sr. Anne Bernadette, my 7th grade math teacher). But that doesn't mean that the average reader will see them as the reading equivalent to sentences.
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2014
  7. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I don't consider equations to be complete sentences, though I wouldn't necessarily consider them sentence fragments either. In journal papers, equations are usually written in a certain format: they are indented like a block quote and always get their own line. For example:

    So equations aren't written the same way equations are. I'm not sure what the formatting rule is in fiction, but I imagine it's something similar. That being said, I agree with the advice given above regarding their usefulness and purpose.

    edit: there should be a "(4)" at the end of the line that has the equation; I can't do it here because of formatting issues.
     
  8. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I was just going to call you out on that.
     
  9. caters
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    caters Member

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    The equations are critical to my story for distribution of the people working on certain buildings and approximating the decimal that results when you divide a number by a number that isn't a factor of the dividend when it comes to distribution of people working on cities in certain counties.

    Each time they build the cities in a county 50 married and 50 unmarried come to each group that is building a particular city after 1 year. Than the people that are there after all the years of building the cities in those counties come to the city of Memphis, TN and talk about building more counties. Because there are more and more cities for quite a while and more and more counties bordering other counties the total number of people that come gets bigger and bigger.

    Eventually the people stop coming at a fast pace and divide into groups that will build the other states and a group that stays in the state that they have built and lives there. That and the birth rate gets faster so less people need to come for that reason as well.
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2014
  10. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Sometimes Word complains about stupid stuff anyway, so you should probably check this from some editor. I think you might also want to consider how much math it is reasonable to show, how relevant it is, etc.

    In Yevgeny Zamyatin's We there are some simple equations.

    The equation is embedded into the sentence. It's simple and not overwhelming. If you aren't familiar with the novel, the setting is a dystopian city run by logic and math. Still, there isn't much math in the prose because that'd be difficult for the likes of myself to understand, so the author gives an impression of math's constant presence.
     
  11. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    My own approach would be to skip the equation and describe the process. It strikes me as something the writer needs to know but the reader does not.
     
  12. caters
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    caters Member

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    But what if the person reading it does not remember how to approximate? Wouldn't having the equations in there make the reader say "Oh yeah okay that's how you approximate something to the nearest whole number and this applies to any place value." Here is another advantage to having the equations. It lets the reader know "Okay so they are approximating if it isn't a factor of that number and than subtracting that approximation all the way down to Xn/1=Xn Xn-Xn=0"

    This series of novels with the equations I bet the mathematicians will love and normal people that know algebra and approximating will probably love this as well.
     
  13. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, mathematicians might very well like it. "Normal people" (loved that!), even those who know algebra and approximating, maybe not so much. I am and always have been adept at algebra but I have to tell you, coming across an equation in a novel would make my eyes glaze over.

    But, as writers, we have to call 'em as we see 'em. Good luck.
     
  14. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I can only speak for myself, but I think I'd just skip the equations. I want to know the story, and I have trouble understanding the stories within mathematical equations and also very little interest to do it either (if I'm in the mood, I pick a math book), so I think that part would be lost on me. However, I'm sure there are also people who'd be interested in them.

    You can also skip those fragment errors for now, focus on the story, and worry about the formatting when the time comes to submit the manuscript to publishers.
     
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  15. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I didn't even read the equations in my math textbook back in college, so there's no way I'm reading math equations in a novel. :p
     
  16. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I read them, memorized them, used them in many exams and homework assignment and lab assignments...and that's why I'm not going to read them in a novel. :)
     
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  17. caters
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    caters Member

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    But how else would I show iterations of division, approximation, and subtracting the approximation other than equations?

    That iterative process is what Allison in my story basically does when she wants to know how many people per city should be working and the number of cities is not a factor of the sum of unmarried people + couples(These I treat as 1x not 2x).

    Would I show how it is done and than the results of each iteration separated by commas?
     
  18. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Just explain it in writing. For the casual reader, having an equation offers no benefit over a simple description. It might even make things more confusing. Keep in mind that not all people understand math at the same level you do.
     
  19. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that the problem may be that math lessons and novels just don't pair up well. People will tolerate word problems, but I don't know that you'll find any readers who will tolerate a novel that is, in large part, a word problem.
     
  20. PeterC
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    PeterC Active Member

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    It does seem like fiction and equations don't really mix. I suppose it's possible that a story might benefit from the occasional equation, maybe a mysterious formula engraved on the wall of an alien temple, but it seems like it would be a rare case.

    As far as formatting goes, in general math should be blended into the sentence as seamlessly as possible so that if it was spoken aloud the result would make grammatical sense. I don't know how to make the math symbols here so I'll use (pseudo)LaTeX notation in this example:

    "Goldbach's Conjecture states that \forall n > 2 such that n mod 2 = 0, n = p_1 + p_2 where p_1 and p_2 are primes."

    The math isn't necessarily a sentence by itself but rather a component of the sentence in which it is used.
     
  21. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Equations are a language with a well-defined grammar. Moreover, there is mathematics of formal grammars.

    Don't expect Word to understand the grammars of mathematics well, though.
     

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