Numbers and Equations

For those writing technical documents, the advice for how to deal with numbers and equations can be confusing. To that end, we have gathered several resources for you to use.


Article:  Using Numbers in Technical Documents by Celia Mathews Elliot

Slide article: Writing Numbers in Technical Documents by Celia Mathew Elliot


The inclusion of equations should promote the validity of your work to the audience. Their presence should not slow down comprehension of the material.  To that end, there are certain traditions that have developed around how to format equations in written technical work.

  • You can include short equations inside of a sentence without special formatting or extra spacing. Some publishing venues prefer that you italicize such equations to set them apart from the regular wording of the paragraph.
  • Longer equations should be set apart, outside of the sentence or paragraph. Usually, this is done by creating a blank line, then centering the equation on the next line. After the equation, insert another blank line for readability. See Figure 1, below.
  • After the equation, you should define any symbols, etc. Begin that sentence with the word “where” to signal your reader. See Figure 1, below.
  • If your equation is so long that it breaks onto a second+ line, format it so that the line cuts off before a mathematical sign (+, – =, or x). Then, on the new line, begin with that mathematical sign.
  • Number any equation that will be used again within the written work. This is commonly done by inserting a number in parentheses or square brackets on the right margin. See Figure 1, below.
  • Do not ever let a long equation be split over two pages, if possible.
CHEC: formatting equations

Figure 1: Formatting equations in written work


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