A new chatroom is approaching $\ldots$ (It already approached and you weren't there to celebrate)

Rightfully named $(L_A)\TeX/\mathcal{M}_{ath}\mathrm{J}^a\mathrm{x}$ help, this is a chatroom for $\ldots$ Guess what $\ldots$ helping users on how to format their posts.


$\mathrm{\color{gray}{{\large{Some~time~earlier} \, \ldots \, er} ~ er ~\small{er} ~\tiny{er}}}$

Oh no, how can I format? Without some bling, this'll all look like gibberish $\ldots$

Huh, anyway, it's still as ugly as this but they're good people and it doesn't matter if their retina faces its apocalypse.

The third semi-valued semi-loved semi-hated associate member of HUFTP team 1 flies in with his cape.

Cracks knuckles

Bad-formatted question, you're going down.

The bad formatting retaliates; the question is edited multiply and the hero seems hard pressed:

Please let me edit your question. By editing it you're disallowing me.

The victim cries for help:

Ok sorry I was trying to figure it out.

And suddenly the credits roll and the movie ends.


But what if the hero led them somewhere quieter, more peaceful, more awesome etc. to teach them its basics? There would've been less plot for a movie and less money for the producers, but

  • There would've been less noisy comments.
  • There would've been less awkward moments for the new user (i.e. better UX)
  • There would've been an official process and that in itself is cool.
  • Since it would've been a chatroom, there would've been easier guidance as there was no need to keep something clean.
  • The user would've learned way more effectively how to give HUFTP team less work and how to get less downvotes next time.
  • etc.

Who are we kidding? A written deaf note is never as good as $\ldots$ something not deaf in explaining how MathJax or $\LaTeX$ work.

Thus, whenever a new user needs formatting help, I'll also include a link to that chatroom and be there in case I need to spare some of my time explaining it to them. Note that this is totally optional, but it would be appreciable if you at least linked. The normal chat regulars will promise 2 to be there most of the time and help if needed.

Note that this isn't solely for people who are beginning to understand what dollar signs do in $\LaTeX$. Anyone who wishes to be a better formatting editor can visit!

So $\ldots$

To make this less like an announcement and more like a , I'd appreciate if I see your two cents on this as an answer.

  • What would you like to propose as an addition?
  • What improvements do you think would be beneficial?
  • Do you have a critical view on this? Please share!

1: We are the coolest™ ever team of chemistry editors. Abbreviated as of today (yeah, no one else knows it) as HUFTP. Hey! at least I tried to abbreviate it!
2: Isn't that right you $\ldots$ guys? ಠ_ಠ

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What about new users that don't have the right to communicate in chat? $\endgroup$ Aug 20, 2015 at 20:37
  • $\begingroup$ You can leave them the link to come and see what you've written for them. If you're sparing time to teach them formatting, their question(s) must be good enough to get them 20 rep in no time. (Nobody really teaches someone with a HW dump how to format, since there are more important matters at hand, and it's not very likely they're inclined to listen either) Thing is, comments are not the place for quick-and-dirty tutorial-ish tips. $\endgroup$
    – M.A.R.
    Aug 20, 2015 at 20:38
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I agree with this. Is it 20 rep you need for chat? I don't know if you can give explicit write access to users below that threshold. But apart from that, I think this is a good idea. You are also aware, that this kind of includes, that you have to teach them how to use MathJax in the chat... $\endgroup$ Aug 21, 2015 at 6:20
  • $\begingroup$ chemistry.stackexchange.com/questions/179362/… My retina did face its apocalypse! $\endgroup$ Dec 15, 2023 at 14:37

2 Answers 2


We have the Chemistry version of this post from Mathematics Meta. It's a real tour de force of a tutorial.

  • $\begingroup$ Hmm, I'm not sure the info will be put together unless we write a more comprehensive all-in-one new user guide. (Which I've been thinking of doing, but procrastination FTW) $\endgroup$
    – M.A.R.
    Sep 3, 2015 at 2:49
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The tutorial part is basically the same as we already have (a few things skipped though): meta.chemistry.stackexchange.com/q/86/4945 We could restructure the post and include more details to it. We also have quite a nice style guide. I agree that the information is somewhat scattered around here, but it is accessible. $\endgroup$ Sep 3, 2015 at 3:20

Provide an easy to find cheat-sheet-like guide for the common formatting types.

Right now it isn't obvious where the chemical formatting specification is located. Ideally, it should be prominently linked from the "help" links on the edit answer/comment block. (Is mathjax available on comments? The help page makes it sound like it isn't ...) The fact that you have to post links to three different pages indicates that the information is not available in an easy-to-use format.

A link to the MathJax page doesn't cut it. If I'm editing a comment, I don't want to be clicking through a dozen links and reading a massive tome filled with a bunch of irrelevant information to figure things out - I want to get the answer in a couple of seconds, max.

I'm also not enamored with linking to a Question/Answer. Multiple answers, comments, the whole rhetorical question so you can post an informative reply boilerplate, that gets in the way of getting quick answers to your formatting questions.

That's why I suggest a cheat-sheet like guide filled with the common types of MathJax formatting people use here. One page, with an item-by-item list of the particular things people here want to do and how to accomplish them. Something that's eminently skim-able and quick to use.

I realize that getting this linked in the appropriate places might involve getting the infrastructure guys at StackExchange to permit greater customization of the help dialogs, but I think it's worth it to tell people about what formatting options are availible.

A formatting chatroom is nice, but the psychological barrier is greater than a help page, and waiting for a response takes longer - especially if the chatroom response is the equivalent of "here's a link - go RTFM".

  • $\begingroup$ I'm getting the feeling that something baaad happened to you and you're using the answer part of this to voice your opinion (if it's true, open a meta post), but here goes anyways: 1) If the chatroom was intended for "RTFM"-kind responses, I wouldn't have created it in the first place. 2) I always find these three links helpful at different degrees. For example, sandbox is a helpful link for advanced formatting, while the help/notation is not really helpful when trying to figure out how to format catalysis in the reactions. Electron configurations don't need tutorials with that much fluff. $\endgroup$
    – M.A.R.
    Aug 23, 2015 at 5:20
  • $\begingroup$ 3) Some users here are TeXperts, some (like me) got introduced to $\LaTeX$ here on chem.SE. And some don't know how to use it. The comment thread was awkward for the OP so that's why this chatroom and meta post come off at the first place. 4) Not very user-friendly, but the UI at least does show "MathJax help". 5) I kinda agree with you. Been in mind of a meta post that saves us from multiple linking. That said, none of the data shows we miss something, or anything is hard to use, but we want to make it even easier for users to understand our formatting guidelines. $\endgroup$
    – M.A.R.
    Aug 23, 2015 at 5:24
  • $\begingroup$ BTW how does help center indicate MathJax isn't available in comments? $\endgroup$
    – M.A.R.
    Aug 23, 2015 at 5:28
  • $\begingroup$ meta.chemistry.stackexchange.com/a/88/22 already exists, and the "how to format" sidebar shown to newbies links to it. $\endgroup$ Aug 23, 2015 at 12:58
  • $\begingroup$ @inɒzɘmɒЯ.A.M - On the RTFM issue - perhaps I'm prejudging, but it's been my (non-SE) experience that brusque responses to questions are the norm, especially if the answerer views it as "doing the questioner's homework". If you're in the middle of formatting a post, you don't really want to be told to read a 100 page tome, even if it is very helpful. shrug It could work, but you'll have to be careful about the tone of the responses. $\endgroup$
    – R.M.
    Aug 24, 2015 at 19:43
  • $\begingroup$ @inɒzɘmɒЯ.A.M On the rest, my point is mainly that the information seems to be scattered here and there, and there isn't a consistent "main" location for it, with obvious, easily accessible links. E.g. if you weren't familiar with it, how would you find it? Is it in an obvious location? Is it quick to get just the information you need, or do you need to dig for it? $\endgroup$
    – R.M.
    Aug 24, 2015 at 19:48
  • $\begingroup$ @inɒzɘmɒЯ.A.M On the help center, the "help link" says "Comments support only bold, italic, code and links; in addition, a few shorthand links are available." No mention of MathJax is made. $\endgroup$
    – R.M.
    Aug 24, 2015 at 19:48
  • $\begingroup$ @ManishEarth Hmm, I see that now, but I'd say the link doesn't stand out, especially if you don't know MathJax is used to format chemical expressions. It also doesn't appear to be linked from the answer and comment formatting help, just the ask a question help. It's also a bit wordy - good for a tutorial, not necessarily ideal for a quick-reference. $\endgroup$
    – R.M.
    Aug 24, 2015 at 19:53
  • $\begingroup$ On the RTFM issue, you have a point actually. However, SE's system was designed to prohibit such behavior. On the formatting issue, on the whole, all of that info is needed for question formatting. However, you again do have a point. One could only need to know what dollar signs do to do $sp^3$ and get $sp^3$ but most of the time you need to know other stuff to be able to do $$\ce{\overset{\rm Ethene}{C2H4} + \overset{\rm Hydrogen}{H2} \xrightarrow{H2SO4} \overset{\rm Ethane}{C2H6}}$$. $\endgroup$
    – M.A.R.
    Aug 25, 2015 at 19:51

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