# How well do unicode symbols work in questions and answers?

Only a limited subset of $$\LaTeX$$ is supported on this site, though enough for the vast majority of equations we'd be likely to use. Unicode symbols can still be useful, perhaps especially the more "pictorial" ones. For example, I recently edited a question and in doing so replaced many images by Unicode symbols, e.g. filled and empty circles, and numbers on circular backgrounds.

This certainly made the question easier to edit and annotate, and I hope easier to read. But are there pitfalls I should be aware of if using Unicode in questions and answers? For example, will what I did just be garbled by a screen reader, in which case for accessibility purposes I might have been better to use an image and provide an alt-text? Is Unicode well-supported these days, so if it looks good on my browser I can generally assume it will render okay for other people? Are there particular areas of Unicode we should avoid using?

• How do you type those unicode symbols? Feb 18 at 16:57
• Feb 18 at 17:34
• Because the symbols you used are not mathematical symbols, nor do they represent such, I think this might be a non-issue. The real issue, addressed on the math site, is whether to supplant $\TeX$ rendering with unicode symbols. There a (strong IMHO) case is made that $\TeX$ markup has meaning which would be lost by using extended symbols, so that it's better for some users now and potentially for everyone in posterity to use markup. That is why we tend to ask newbies who use images or extended symbols to utilize MathJax instead.
– whuber Mod
Feb 18 at 17:51
• I will add that I have been collecting some of my posts for possible publication and find that I can render the original MathJax in Word by means of a simple macro (or directly in R Markdown or Quarto). That's a real benefit! Another benefit, albeit difficult to realize due to inadequate search software on this site, is that the MathJax text is searchable.
– whuber Mod
Feb 18 at 17:54
• @whuber Yes, I wouldn't suggest using Unicode in mathematical expressions in general - I suppose there might be some obscure cases where MathJax doesn't have quite the symbol you want, but I think that's an issue more likely to be encountered by users on Math SE than Stats SE! (And at any rate, users can define their own notation if needs be, which would usually allow them to sidestep such problems.) Feb 19 at 0:11
• @kjetil There are ways to enter Unicode via your keyboard but to be honest I find it easier simply to copy and paste (not least because sites you can look up the codepoints online invariably just give you the option to copy the character instead!). Wiki has a long but not exhaustive list but there are also lookup sites like this one: it helps to know a little terminology, e.g. Unicode descriptions uses "black" and "white" to indicate "filled in" and "empty" respectively (try "black square", "white circle") Feb 19 at 0:20
• I'm sure many users here have used Detexify to draw a character freehand to look up the $\LaTeX$ command: there are similar tools like Shapecatcher you can use to draw a character and find similar-looking Unicode characters! Feb 19 at 0:25