This question Style of mathematical writing vs. too many lemmas seems like it may get closed. I am somewhat torn as to whether it should stay open or be closed (and so I have neither voted up nor down nor voted to close) but I thought it might be worth some discussion or clarification of people's views.

More specifically: should a question such as this stay on MathOverflow, or move to academia.SE, or one of the writing-focused StackExchange sites (whatever ones there might be), or is it just not a good SE question?

By "such as this" I mean "a question about good practice in mathematical writing", not the particular wish expressed by this poster.

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    $\begingroup$ Personally, I like to have questions that are this specific to math be here, rather than on academia. Where to draw the line for "sufficiently specific to math" I don't know (but I would say that the example is definitely on the math side). $\endgroup$ Jun 16, 2015 at 18:26
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with Tobias, and think the question should be at MO (not MO meta!), as it is the users of MO who are (by far) the most qualified to answer. However, I am going to make this Community Wiki, as there may be divergent views and no clearly definitive answer. $\endgroup$
    – Todd Trimble Mod
    Jun 16, 2015 at 18:35
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    $\begingroup$ The question presently has 2 votes to migrate it here to MO meta -- wouldn't it be off-topic here as it is not a question about MathOverflow? $\endgroup$
    – Stefan Kohl Mod
    Jun 16, 2015 at 20:46

1 Answer 1


As of this writing, the current question is not a good StackExchange question. I read it as "I'm tired of a certain writing style. Any ideas how to make it better?" This encourages subjective answers and discussion, more than is comfortable for the framework.

A close question which is appropriate (and even for MathOverflow) is "I'm tired of a certain writing style, and want to change it. Are there examples in the literature that you would recommend following?" . This allows for specific examples in the literature to be cited, and may provide the answer that is needed. It allows for concrete examples and (a hope for) reasons why the examples answer the question. If handled properly, it could serve as a reference for future readers much better than a collection of subjective opinions.

Gerhard "Makes Room For Objective Subjectivity" Paseman, 2015.06.16

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    $\begingroup$ I agree the question is not well formulated, but at least Igor's answer is also an answer to your suggested reformulation, and others also seem to be taking such a tack in comments. (I actually think the premise of the question is mistaken: elegance in mathematical writing is primarily achieved not through stylistic devices, but through conceptual organization, lucidity in the proofs, etc. Some of the great works of Milnor, for example, follow the definition-lemma-proof format that the OP finds boring and workmanlike. But that's an aside.) $\endgroup$
    – Todd Trimble Mod
    Jun 17, 2015 at 6:10

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