International Standards and Conformity Assessment for all electrical, electronic and related technologies
hand typing

Drafting IEC publications



27 Mathematical formulae

27.1 Purpose or rationale

A mathematical formula uses symbols to express the relationship between quantities.


NOTE Notations such as


for numerical values are not mathematical formulae. They are particularly useful on the axes of graphs and in the headings of columns in tables.


27.2 Title

Mathematical formulae do not have a title.


27.3 Numbering and subdivision

If needed for cross-referencing purposes, mathematical formulae can be numbered in a document. Arabic numbers in parentheses shall be used, starting with 1.


EXAMPLE 1                                                                                               


The numbering shall be continuous and independent of the numbering of clauses, tables and figures. Subdivision of mathematical formulae [for example (2a), (2b), etc.] is not permitted.


When mathematical formulae in annexes are numbered, the numbering restarts and is preceded by the annex letter.





27.4 Referencing

If a formula is numbered, it should be referred to in the text. The purpose of a formula should be made clear by its context, for example, with an introductory proposition.


Use, for example, the following forms for references to mathematical formulae:

  • "see 10.1, Formula (3)";
  • "see A.2, Formula (A.5)".

27.5 Specific principles and rules

Mathematical formulae shall be expressed in mathematically correct form.


The variables shall be represented by italicized single-letter symbols. The meanings of the symbols shall be explained in connection with the mathematical formulae, unless they appear in a symbols and abbreviated terms clause.



However, the same symbol shall never be used within a document both for a quantity and for its corresponding numerical value. For example, use of the formula in Example 1 and of the formula in Example 2 in the same context would imply that 1 = 3,6 (which obviously is not true).


If, exceptionally, a formula between numerical values is used, the style shown in Example 2 shall be followed.



Descriptive terms or names of quantities shall not be arranged in the form of a mathematical formula. Names of quantities or multiletter abbreviated terms, for example presented in italics or with subscripts, shall not be used in the place of symbols.





The same symbol should not be used to represent different quantities within the same document. Subscripts can be useful to distinguish symbols for related concepts.

Unit symbols shall not be used within mathematical formulae.


Further examples are presented in Annex B.