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Some people use the abbreviation MMA extensively on Mathematica.SE, and possibly elsewhere. Some find it less clear/informative/elegant. I always found it sloppy, and seeing the comments here prompted me to write this post. Should there be a policy handling MMA, Mma, mma, etc. abbreviations?

Why shouldn't we replace MMA with Mathematica:

  • Writing MMA is definitely faster for the poster and editing posts takes time for the editor;
  • Seems like everyone knows this abbreviation (and those not knowing it could easily find this);
  • Editing posts to replace MMA with Mathematica unnecessarily bumps these questions.

Why should we replace:

  • The official name of the software is Mathematica (ok, I ignored the (R) symbol);
  • Editing is usually harmless;
  • Using MMA might puzzle/confuse/perplex/flummox new users;
  • Unnecessary abbreviations contribute to obscurity: I remember that once I thought mma is actually a variable introduced by the poster and it took me some tome to figure it out;
  • I don't mind if some posts are moved to the top due to an edit;
  • I don't mind editing posts, and just like cormullion does, I change these whenever I encounter them during a revision.
  • For my personal taste, Mathematica integrates much better with text than MMA (or mma, etc.) and looks more seamless.

Questions:

  1. Should we replace abbreviations retrospectively by editing posts?
  2. Should one only replace MMA when a post is being edited for some other major reason and otherwise leave them be to prevent bumping?
  3. Should we discourage the use of this abbreviation?
  4. Could/should there be a site-specific shortcut so that any user-input mma is immediately translated to Mathematica?
  5. Do we have to care about the whole thing? Certainly: there are people who feel offended by such a minor edit done by someone else, and I can understand them - but I can understand those editing the posts as well.

(As a matter of fact, I never write out Mathematica letter-by-letter: I have an Autohotkey script that immediately replaces the hotstring mma. I had a hard time writing this post suppressing these hotstrings).

  • 3
    Note: Bumping by itself is not a sin; it's excessive bumping that will tend to annoy not a few people. Still, I don't understand why edits offend people; it's part and parcel of being in SE that your posts can be edited by anybody. "If you are not comfortable with the idea of your contributions being collaboratively edited by other trusted users, this may not be the site for you." – J. M. is away Oct 24 '12 at 11:25
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    Anyway, here's how I see it: I don't think we need an explicit written rule for this, but people ought not to feel offended if other people expand their abbreviations. – J. M. is away Oct 24 '12 at 11:34
  • I'm the same opinion as Istvan although I might used MMA or Mma too. This is often since I have to write Mathematica the 1000st time. Istvan, is your Autohotkey an addition to the SE (yes, I wrote SE;-) editor? Can you write detailed how to set up such a thing? – halirutan Oct 24 '12 at 11:42
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    I wouldn't recommend searching for "mma" and flooding the front page with hundreds of edits, all to only change mma. If it was a user without editing privileges, repeated rejections of their edits (and I will reject if it is a pattern) will edit-ban them for a week. But I do agree that Mathematica looks cleaner than mma and try to avoid the latter. I also replace mma if I run into it during an edit. – rm -rf Oct 24 '12 at 11:56
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    A bit of trivia...you will rarely, if ever, see anybody from WRI use "mma" or a variant. It violates our style guide, and there's some fairly effective internal policing on this point (I have, myself, pointed this out a few times to new employees still learning the ropes). Sometimes, internally, those who tire of typing may abbreviate it as "M-", though. But it's not as embarrassing as spelling our founder's given name with a 'v' (a correction I've also had to make a couple of times internally). – John Fultz Oct 25 '12 at 7:05
  • @halirutan: No, Autohotkey is a completely independent software residing somewhere in the shell. That is why I never extensively advertised it here, though it is easier and faster to replace hotstrings with AHK inside Mathematica than with InputAutoReplacements... – István Zachar Oct 25 '12 at 9:58
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I not only edit mma but Mathematica into Mathematica. To me it just feels more professional to have the questions and answers on this site using the proper name of the product. I believe that italicization will also help to clue in those who still somehow think this is a general mathematics site. It is also helpful to distinguish the product from the site itself.

When should such an edit be made? As R.M states in a comment: "I wouldn't recommend searching for "mma" and flooding the front page with hundreds of edits, all to only change mma." Rather, make edits to new posts, and post which have already been recently edited.

  • Agreed, completely. – István Zachar Oct 24 '12 at 12:24
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    I'm waiting for them to allow edits to be made via the API... – Brett Champion Oct 25 '12 at 0:11
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    Italics is not part of the name. The name is, by the very defintion of "name", the sequence of the letters (or of the sounds if you speak it). That is, the product is named "Mathematica", even if Wolfram always writes it in italics. I don't care if someone writes it in italics or not, but I would definitely not call it professional to put it in italics. It's just a matter of personal style (or company style guide, when writing for a company, like for example for Wolfram). – celtschk Oct 25 '12 at 16:35
  • @celtschk: I guess the italics and the capital M were chosen to make it distinghuishable from mathematics or mathematica-, the science. These, IMO, are important design features, judging by the amount of migrations from here to math.SE. – István Zachar Oct 26 '12 at 10:13
  • @IstvánZachar: The capital M definitely is part of the name. And this post wasn't about what is at the top of the site, but about how "Mathematica" is written in normal questions/answers. And again, If you want to write it in italics, I don't have a problem with it. I only have a problem with the claim that not writing it in italics is wrong or unprofessional. – celtschk Oct 26 '12 at 12:04
  • @celtschk Yes, I understand you, and I only said it as a remark not as a counterargument or anything, as I agree with you. – István Zachar Oct 26 '12 at 12:05
  • @celtschk I see I never responded to your comment. I did not mean to characterize writing "Mathematica" as unprofessional; rather I mean that Mathematica feels more professional to me. That is, official documentation etc., will use Mathematica. This is similar to the stylized form of LaTeX. It would be absurd to demand that stylized form every time the word appears yet nevertheless it looks more professional to have it stylized, IMHO. – Mr.Wizard Nov 9 '12 at 8:00
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    If I recall correctly, in early versions or documentation thereof, WRI typeset the word 'Mathematica' in upright small caps. Only later did WRI adopt the convention of Italic slant. – murray Apr 15 '13 at 18:25
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I think new questions should be edited both to clarify the questioner's intent and to establish some basic consistency in terms of accepted English spelling and punctuation.

One obvious advantage is to make the question easy to find. For example, if you google two phrases, one with 'mma', and the other with 'Mathematica', I'd guess that, for most queries, the first would find fewer hits than the second. This would be why I would, for a new question. change one to the other.

Of course, a lot of the time it's unnecessary to include either in the title, because this is no longer StackOverflow but a site dedicated to one subject.

Editing more mature questions risks unnecessarily bumping them to the top. StackExchange could usefully add a minor edit checkbox, which doesn't exaggerate the importance of minor spelling changes. Until then, I don't make minor copy edits, because I don't like seeing my nitpicks float to the top of the page...:)

I like this site and think it's useful, and if I can't always contribute with Mathematica code and technical insights, at least I can try to contribute to the long-term value of the material. I don't go as far as editing every question I see: I wouldn't be able or willing to change every spelling mistake, or convert every paragraph into 'standard English', or insert missing definite and indefinite articles into sentences - the original voice of the questioner should be preserved. But making simple edits and expanding abbreviations for new questions, or helping new users format their code or insert images, seems like a positive contribution. And you soon find out how people react, and can adapt accordingly.

(If you do a lot of typing, some hotkey expansion software gizmo is invaluable and can save time. On MacOS X, I use TextExpander (so 'mma' expands to 'Mixed Martial Arts' :)), but there's a built-in facility too.)

  • Fixed it for you. :o) – Mr.Wizard Oct 24 '12 at 12:16
  • I've already replaced OP-s in my post... :) – István Zachar Oct 24 '12 at 12:27
  • @Mr.Wizard lol & tyvm – cormullion Oct 24 '12 at 13:25
2

Changing Mma to Mathematica is as pointless and inappropriate as changing Mac into Macintosh. Everybody knows what it means ... time to move on.

  • It's not about changing every instance but about principles and guidelines for future questions/answers. – István Zachar Nov 4 '12 at 14:28
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    not everyone; and Apple use both Mac and Macintosh – cormullion Nov 5 '12 at 12:28
  • I Agreeeee .... – Dr. belisarius Dec 25 '12 at 21:58

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