Negative/Negation Sign

Sławomir Osipiuk sosipiuk at
Sat Oct 29 17:42:30 CDT 2022

On Saturday, 29 October 2022, 17:56:20 (-04:00), Asmus Freytag via Unicode wrote:

I can see no indication that the TI engineers had some other symbol in mind, that is had they had the choice of a Unicode-encoded outline font, they would have chosen something with an appearance very distinct from SUPERSCRIPT MINUS. Unless and until someone can come up with a very cogent argument that they were really trying to model something that is visually distinct from a superscript minus sign, there is no reason to reject that mapping.

The argument is simple enough: a minus sign as part of the exponent should be visually distinct from a negation sign in the base.

The TI engineers were trying to visually separate subtraction and negation. To the extent we can try to deduce their reasoning, they would not have wanted to immediately confuse negation with negative exponents, which is what the superscript does.

Someone with the appropriate calculator can confirm: What does 3⁻¹−-3 ("three to the power of negative one, then subtract negative three") look like? If the negative symbol in the exponent and the one preceding the three are the same, I'll admit the superscript is fine in this case.

My view is that the modifier letter minus (U+02D7) is the best option to respect the intended semantics, while the plain hyphen-minus (U+002D) would be my second choice.

As for Wikipedia, it's ridiculous to say that one person's opinion on an extremely esoteric detail, left uncontested (or more likely unnoticed and unquestioned) is enough to form some kind of de facto standard. But, if we are going by that logic, I suggest you check the page again. ;-)
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