Is it ok to downvote an answer when the user refused to use LaTeX math formatting and instead wrote out all equations in bold text or worse no formatting at all?

Here is an example answer: https://physics.stackexchange.com/a/82028/392

PS. There is a little known FAQ on math formatting here: https://math.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5020/mathjax-basic-tutorial-and-quick-reference?rq=1

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    $\begingroup$ I link that guide (along with our own blurb) in a comment every time I come across a user who clearly doesn't know about tex/mathjax formatting. $\endgroup$ – user10851 Dec 23 '13 at 16:27
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    $\begingroup$ So you say no to downvotes, just comments would suffice. $\endgroup$ – John Alexiou Dec 23 '13 at 16:30

Technically you can downvote for whatever reason you want. (Any reason based on the content of the post, that is. If you downvote because of who posted it, that's not okay.) So if you want to downvote a post because it doesn't use MathJax for the formulas, that is, strictly speaking, okay. It may or may not be a good idea, however.

I think there is sometimes an argument in favor of doing this. The main reason you're supposed to downvote an answer is that it's not useful. But an answer can be not useful for a variety of reasons: it's wrong, it's unclear, it doesn't justify its conclusions, or it's just difficult to read. (Or others.) And an answer with a lot of math which is formatted using plain text, not MathJax, qualifies as "difficult to read" as far as I'm concerned.

In practice, of course, it's an easy edit to put in the proper MathJax formatting. So when I come across an answer of this type, I'll usually just edit it, rather than downvoting. And in general, whenever the reason you would downvote is something that can be fixed in a fairly obvious way by an edit which doesn't change the meaning of the post, it's preferable to edit rather than downvoting.

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    $\begingroup$ In particular I think that downvoting a new user for not MathJaxifing their post would be unreasonable. $\endgroup$ – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Dec 23 '13 at 20:27
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    $\begingroup$ Editing it, rather than downvoting, really is the proper response. $\endgroup$ – RBarryYoung Dec 24 '13 at 20:02

Generally you should fix easy things like that.

Of course, you can also expect posters to learn from their mistakes and not do the same thing in the future.

  • $\begingroup$ I can see editing questions and helping first time posters, but for answers the standard should be different. Right? $\endgroup$ – John Alexiou Dec 23 '13 at 16:23
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    $\begingroup$ @ja72: Nah, I think it's too unkind to downvote an answer just because it's not formatted well. Downvotes are meant for wrong answers, spams, offensive posts, etc. (though I've to admit that sometimes it's also used as a revenge). And, you can't simply declare (in the absence of a response) that the user refused your suggestion. He maybe busy on something else. If you're disinclined in reading that answer, either you can try revising it, or just leave a comment (as you did) below the answer. (BTW, I've edited that answer) ;-) $\endgroup$ – Waffle's Crazy Peanut Dec 23 '13 at 16:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Waffle'sCrazyPeanut well really flags are the primary method of dealing with spam/offensive posts. It doesn't hurt to downvote them too, but it's less effective. $\endgroup$ – David Z Dec 23 '13 at 20:24

I wouldn't downvote if the answer is not complicated to read.

But you should leave a comment to new users and edit it if you have time. For instance, @annav doesn't use LaTex.

  • $\begingroup$ Well, that's a nice observation on anna-v :D $\endgroup$ – Waffle's Crazy Peanut Dec 23 '13 at 16:37

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