Mathematical Writing

by Donald E. Knuth, Tracy L. Larrabee, and Paul M. Roberts (Washington, D.C.: Mathematical Association of America, 1989), ii+115pp.
ISBN 0-88385-063-X
Japanese translation by Makoto Arisawa, with additional illustrations and notes by the translator, Kunusu Sensei no Dokyumento Sampo (Tokyo: Kyoritsu-Shuppan, 1989), x+194pp.

This booklet records the class on Mathematical Writing led by Don Knuth at Stanford in 1987. Among the 31 lectures are guest appearances by Herb Wilf, Jeff Ullman, Leslie Lamport, Nils Nilsson, Mary-Claire van Leunen, Rosalie Stemer, and Paul Halmos.

We saw many examples of ``before'' and ``after'' from manuscripts in progress. We learned how to avoid excessive subscripts and superscripts. We discussed the documentation of algorithms, computer programs, and user manuals. We considered the process of refereeing and editing. We studied how to make effective diagrams and tables, and how to find appropriate quotations to spice up a text. Some of the material duplicated topics that would be discussed in writing classes offered by the English department, but the vast majority of the lectures were devoted to issues that are specific to mathematics and/or computer science.

Available from the publisher (Math Association of America).

Videotapes of the original class sessions are viewable from a website hosted by the Stanford Center for Professional Development.


... to Paul Morris Adrian Roberts (30 November 1959 -- 08 November 2006), who memorably enlivened these pages.


For a list of corrections to errors in the 1990 printing of this book, you may download either the errata file in plain TeX format (10926 bytes) or the errata file in DVI format (13512 bytes) or the errata file in compressed PostScript format (30347 bytes); the latter files were generated by the TeX file. [Last updated 29 April 2019.] This list of errata also includes the text of a new page 116, which describes newly found clues to the origin of the phrase ``God is in the details.''

The text of the entire book, except for illustrations that need to be stripped in, can also be downloaded as the MS file in compressed plain TeX format (120K bytes).

The authors hope that the list of errata is complete. But (sigh) it probably isn't. Therefore Knuth will gratefully deposit 0x$1.00 ($2.56) to the account of the first person who finds and reports anything that remains technically, historically, typographically, or politically incorrect. Please send suggested corrections to, or send snail mail to Prof. D. Knuth, Computer Science Department, Gates Building 1B, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-9015 USA. He may not be able to read your message until many months have gone by, because he's working intensively on The Art of Computer Programming. However, he promises to reply in due time.

DO NOT SEND EMAIL TO KNUTH-BUG EXCEPT TO REPORT ERRORS IN BOOKS! And if you do report an error via email, please do not include attachments of any kind; your message should be readable on brand-X operating systems for all values of X.

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