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Symbols, nomenclature::Physical quantity

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Symbols, nomenclature General: Symbols for quantities should be chosen according to the international recommendations from ISO/IEC 80000, the IUPAP red book and the IUPAC green book. For example, the recommended symbol for the physical quantity 'mass' is m, and the recommended symbol for the quantity 'charge' is Q.

Subscripts and indices

Subscripts are used for two reasons, to simply attach a name to the quantity or associate it with another quantity, or represent a specific vector, matrix, or tensor component.

Name reference: The quantity has a subscripted or superscripted single letter, a number of letters, or an entire word, to specify what concept or entity they refer to, and tend to be written in upright roman typeface rather than italic while the quantity is in italic. For instance Ek or Ekinetic is usually used to denote kinetic energy and Ep or Epotential is usually used to denote potential energy.
Quantity reference: The quantity has a subscripted or superscripted single letter, a number of letters, or an entire word, to specify what measurement/s they refer to, and tend to be written in italic rather than upright roman typeface while the quantity is also in italic. For example cp or cisobaric is heat capacity at constant pressure.
Note the difference in the style of the subscripts: k and p are abbreviations of the words kinetic and potential, whereas p (italic) is the symbol for the physical quantity pressure rather than an abbreviation of the word "pressure".
Indices: These are quite apart from the above, their use is for mathematical formalism, see Index notation.

Scalars: Symbols for physical quantities are usually chosen to be a single letter of the Latin or Greek alphabet, and are printed in italic type.

Vectors: Symbols for physical quantities that are vectors are in bold type, underlined or with an arrow above. If, e.g., u is the speed of a particle, then the straightforward notation for its velocity is u, u, or <math>\vec{u}\,\!</math>.

Numbers and elementary functions

Numerical quantities, even those denoted by letters, are usually printed in roman (upright) type, though sometimes can be italic. Symbols for elementary functions (circular trigonometric, hyperbolic, logarithmic etc.), changes in a quantity like Δ in Δy or operators like d in dx, are also recommended to be printed in roman type.

Examples
real numbers are as usual, such as 1 or √2,
e for the base of natural logarithm,
i for the imaginary unit,
π for 3.14159265358979323846264338327950288...
δx, Δy, dz,
sin α, sinh γ, log x

Physical quantity sections
Intro  Symbols, nomenclature  Units and dimensions  Base quantities  General derived quantities  See also  References  Sources  

Symbols, nomenclature
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