I have a formula written in LaTeX. What is the best way to explain what the symbols mean in the formula?

For example I have this equation with a where: symbol definitions

\text{n = amount of weeks}
\text{M = Missed}

Any suggestions?

  • 6
    I'd write the explanation before or after the equation, using plain language: where $n$ is the number of weeks, $M$ the missed weeks,...
    – egreg
    Commented Jun 7, 2012 at 23:07
  • Welcome to TeX.SE. I often use \intertext{} from amsmath or \shortintertext{} from the mathtools package when this text needs to be interspersed within a set of equations. But in this case since you only have one equation, egreg's suggestion is the way to go. Commented Jun 7, 2012 at 23:10

3 Answers 3


When using a formula that introduces new variables I would try very hard to describe them in the text, either immediately before, or immediately after the formula.

Something like

enter image description here


enter image description here



Assuming that $n$ is the number of weeks, and $M$ 
represents `Missed', then a formula for something is

The formula for something is
where $n$ is the number of weeks, and $M$ represents `Missed'.


Another option is to use a dedicated package, such as nomencl (or listofsymbols). These are able to produce a list of all symbols used in formulae all over the document (in a separate section, usually placed at the beginning of a document), sort them, etc.

I recommend this only if you have lots of formulae and/or a long document.

  • 2
    ... and consistent notations throughout the document, and only for symbols which are used at several places, I would add. Commented Jun 8, 2012 at 21:51

On page 114 of A comprehensive review of mathematics in (La)TeX you can edit the code and obtain the following:

\newsavebox{\myendhook} % for the tabulars
  \makebox[0pt][r]{% after the equation number
  \global\sbox{\myendhook}{}% empty box
$n$ & amount of weeks\\
$M$ & Missed
\sbox{\myendhook}{}% reset
\qquad\parbox{4.0cm}{\footnotesize$\begin{aligned} n &= \text{ amount of weeks}\\[-1.0ex] M &= \text{ Missed}\end{aligned}$}

or use a \parbox as in the second example. This yields:

enter image description here


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