having just looked at the umpteenth question about \left and \right in a multi-line environment, i checked the "often referenced questions" list to see if there was a suitable link. no, that's missing. in fact, there are only three questions listed in the "math environments" section.

so i searched for suitable candidates in the archive. there are a lot of helpful questions and answers (one such was suggested in a comment to the new question), but all of them are quite specific to particular circumstances. there's no single "great question".

i'm willing to pose such a question and write a comprehensive answer, but in order to make sure both the question and answer qualify as "great", i'd like some help.

what's the best way to tackle this? chat in a dedicated chatroom?

my experience with chat is that the size of the window is not conducive to detailed exposition, which means that an answer can't readily be compiled as a unit, only piecemeal. (i'd really want to draft such an answer off-line anyhow, in order to make use of an editor i'm used to, that doesn't encourage me to make mistakes.)

if someone is willing to join in this endeavour, i'll add to this question the list of questions i've already identified as containing potentially useful information.

while we're at it, are there any other good candidates for "often asked questions" about math environments?

addendum: i've been busy with "real work", and haven't drafted anything useful yet. but some good candidates have been proposed:

  • how do i align my (displayed) equations?

  • why can't i define a shorthand command for align?

  • my equation requires multiple lines, with matching delimiters on different lines. how can i avoid the errors that i get with \left and \right?

  • how do i put a brace (bracket/parenthesis) around just part of a matrix?

  • what are good practices when applying underbraces and/or overbraces to an equation?

  • what command should i use for bits of text in math environments?

i'll post a separate question for each draft as i put it together -- or if someone else wants to make a start, please feel free. (should the drafts be community wiki?) in the meantime, please keep on making good suggestions.

  • Usual approach for this is to ask a meta question, get something sorted as an 'answer' then transfer to the main site
    – Joseph Wright Mod
    Commented Sep 1, 2013 at 13:31
  • okay. can this be the meta-question, or is that better served by asking a new one on the particular topic? Commented Sep 1, 2013 at 13:38
  • Yes, they are other good candidates for often asked questions: “How do I align my equation(s)?” Maybe a really good crash course about amsmath’s environments would be helpful. Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 8:18
  • 2
    Not sure if it qualifies as a "math environment", but we really need a canonical "How do I put braces/brackets/etc. on the top/bottom/left/right/combination of a matrix/tabular/etc." question and answer.
    – Scott H.
    Commented Sep 4, 2013 at 19:18
  • @Qrrbrbirlbel -- the suggestion about a "crash course" sounds like a good candidate for a blog post. probably too big for a single answer. Commented Sep 4, 2013 at 19:56
  • 2
    @barbarabeeton Too big? But I agree, a blog bost makes a good reference to point questioners to. I believe there is a lot confusion about aligning, splitting things over lines and what makes an equation as well as when to use which environment. Commented Sep 4, 2013 at 20:55
  • Re the “often referenced questions”: \mathrm/\operatorname/\textrm/\text/\textnormal/\DeclareMathOperator/textual in subscripts. One could go days browsing the linked section of Which command should I use for textual subscripts in math mode?. The Top 5 voted question of the amsmath tag also make a good start (the first two relating to \mathrm stuff). Commented Sep 4, 2013 at 20:58
  • @Qrrbrbirlbel -- nice suggestion about text in math. i'm reminded that, long ago, i promised to compile, as a blog post, a list of reliable style guides for composing math. still on my to-do list; my "composition manual" library is mostly packed away in boxes, and is basically inaccessible, but i really want to make an authoritative, annotated list. two of the key works are chaundy et al. and wick, as listed in the biblio of knuth's gibbs lecture, reprinted in digital typography. Commented Sep 4, 2013 at 21:36
  • @JosephWright -- can you make your comment into an answer, so this question won't go unanswered? i've edited the question to add suggested topics, and will continue to do so, and then separately start drafting the actual q/a items, to be run by this forum before posting on the main site. Commented Sep 4, 2013 at 21:39

1 Answer 1


The usual approach to tackling this sort of thing is to pose a meta question specifically asking for input both for thee question and answer for the main site. This gives us a chance to 'polish' the info before moving it to the main site, normally as a CW item (as there will be community input from meta).

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