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Dump the tilde

May 21, 2011 Filed under Blog, Featured, Writing 

I am an Assistant Editor at the Electronic Journal of Severe Storms Meteorology. As we have no paid staff, we depend upon authors to send us manuscripts that are near-ready to publish. The rest of the work we do ourselves, including much of the layout, technical and copy editing, and Web pages. For all that, the authors of published manuscripts pay only $50. What a deal, considering some page charges can be several thousand dollars.

Recently, the issue arose about tildes and their meaning. In atmospheric science journals, the tilde (~) is usually used to mean “about”, “approximately”, or even “of the same order of magnitude”. In math, the tilde is used to mean equivalence or also “approximately equal to”. In statistics, it’s used to mean “is distributed as”. In logic, it means “not”. (For these meanings, I consulted wikipedia.)

Given all these different meanings, I argued that we should probably spell out what our intended meaning is. If we mostly use the tilde as “about”, we only add four more characters to provide that added precision in our meaning. I think it’s a small price to pay for clear meaning.

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