I am writing a formal paper (science journal) that contains a lot of mathematical equations.

People use the word 'represents' and 'is' to describe the variable. For example,

We define a set by A = { x : x < T }, where T is threshold value of blah-blah-blah.

We define a set by A = { x : x < T }, where T represents threshold value of blah-blah-blah.

I do not understand when to use be-verb and when to use represent.

Is there any rule?

  • I think in algebra the two words are to all intents interchangeable. (personally I prefer "represents" because T "is not" anything other than the twentieth letter of the alphabet). But if you can involve @Edwin Ashworth, he will undoubtedly have a view because he was a maths teacher. – WS2 Nov 28 '17 at 8:55
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    I'd say you needn't worry about which you choose to use. WS2 explains why 'represents' would appear the more logical choice, but 'be' is probably the more idiomatic (I've done quick checks on Google for "where x is" and "where x represents", which would seem to confirm my impression), with the broadened usage of 't is the time after take-off' etc being totally acceptable. / Normally, we recommend that people writing scientific papers check in their in-house style guides, but I think that in this case the usage transcends particular preference. There's no harm in checking, though. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 28 '17 at 10:06
  • @EdwinAshworth Yes. My "preference" was entirely a theoretical one. If I was in the practical business of doing maths I certainly wouldn't go to the bother of writing "represents" every time. – WS2 Nov 28 '17 at 11:33

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