≈ vs. ~ — Which symbol is more correct to use?

Both “≈” and “~” are used to indicate approximation, but they may be preferred in different contexts. Here’s a table summarizing their common usage:

SymbolUsageContext
Commonly used in mathematical notation toFormal mathematical expressions
represent approximate equality.and equations.
Example: π ≈ 3.14159
~Often used in informal writing and inInformal writing, emails,
contexts where formal mathematical symbolstext messages, or when a
are not required.less formal tone is used.
Example: The cost is ~$50.

In formal mathematical contexts, “≈” is generally more appropriate, while “~” may be suitable for informal or casual communication.

In mathematics, symbols play an important role in expressing concepts concisely and accurately. Two symbols that are often used interchangeably are the approximately equal to symbol (≈) and the similar to symbol (~). But is one more correct than the other? In this post, we’ll examine the origins and technical definitions of ≈ and ~, look at conventions regarding their use, and make recommendations on when each symbol is most appropriate.

Defining ≈ and ~

The approximately equal to symbol (≈) is used to indicate that two values are close but not precisely equal. For example, the mathematical expression π ≈ 3.14 indicates that π is approximately equal to 3.14. The technical definition of ≈ is that the difference between the two values is small enough to be considered insignificant for the purposes at hand.

The similar to symbol (~), also referred to as the “tilde”, has a related but more flexible definition. It can be used to indicate approximation, similarity, equivalence under certain conditions, or to represent the concept of “approximately”. However, ~ does not imply the same level of precision as ≈.

For instance, writing x ~ 10 means x is around 10, without the implication that it is particularly close or meets any strict tolerance relative to 10. The ~ symbol is broader in scope and has a more informal, conversational tone than the ≈ symbol.

Conventions and Common Usage

There are some conventions and contexts where one symbol is clearly preferred over the other:

  • In advanced technical and scientific writing, ≈ is viewed as the more precise, accurate symbol for denoting approximation. It is the standard choice in academic publications in mathematics, science, statistics, and other fields.
  • When a specific range or tolerance is specified, ≈ is more suitable. For example, writing a shelf life as 2 years ≈ 730 days defines a precise equivalence relationship.
  • ≈ is part of the standard set of mathematical symbols, along with =, ≥, Δ, and others. Using formal mathematical notation promotes clarity.
  • In more casual contexts or nonspecialist writing, ~ tends to be more common and readable. For example, recipe ingredients like “~1 cup of milk” or art project instructions like “use ~50 pipe cleaners” employ the informality of ~ appropriately.
  • Since ~ can signify similarity more broadly, it may be preferred over ≈ when accuracy is less important. Saying “My idea is ~Ken’s idea” conveys the concepts are related but not identical.
  • Some style guides explicitly recommend using ~ over ≈ in nontechnical writing for readability. The APA Publication Manual suggests ~ for amounts that are not precise.
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Recommendations on Proper Usage

Based on their definitions and conventional uses, here are some guidelines on when ≈ or ~ is more correct:

  • Use ≈ when accuracy, precision, or rigor is important. It is the standard choice in academic, scientific, and technical communication.
  • Use ~ in informal writing contexts or when precision is less important. ~ has a conversational tone appropriate for general audiences.
  • Use ≈ when specifying approximations within defined tolerances or well-understood standards of deviation. ≈ signals that thresholds of variance are constrained.
  • Use ~ when the relationship is vague or subjective rather than defined mathematically. ~ suggests loose similarity rather than verifiable equivalence.
  • Use ≈ for familiar measurable quantities described approximately. For example, “The table is ≈ 5 feet long” or “The population is ≈ 502,000”.
  • Use ~ for subjective qualities with implied similarity. For example, “The flavors are ~cinnamon and nutmeg” or “Their singing styles are ~comparable”.

FAQs

What is the difference between ≈ and ≅? “≈” denotes approximate equality, indicating values are close but not necessarily equal. “≅” represents congruence, meaning two geometric shapes have the same size and shape.

What is the correct symbol for approximately? “≈” is commonly used for approximation.

What is the symbol greater than approximately? There isn’t a standard symbol for “greater than approximately.” You might use “>≈” informally.

What is the greater than or equivalent symbol? “≥” stands for greater than or equal to.

Which symbol means difference between? The symbol for difference between two values is “−” (minus sign).

Is approximately equal the same as equal? No, approximately equal (“≈”) means close but not exactly the same as equal (“=”).

Does ‘~’ mean approximately? Yes, “~” often means approximately.

What does ≅ mean? “≅” indicates congruence, meaning two geometric shapes are identical in size and shape.

What does ∼ mean? “∼” can represent similarity or approximation, depending on context.

What does =~ mean in math? “=~” is not a standard mathematical symbol. It might be used in specific programming or equation notation.

What is the symbol for less than or approximately? There isn’t a standard symbol for “less than or approximately.” You might use “<≈” informally.

What is the symbol for approximately less than or equal to? There isn’t a standard symbol for “approximately less than or equal to.” You might use “≤≈” informally.

How do you write greater than 30? You write “30 > x” to indicate “x” is greater than 30.

How do you remember greater than and less than? Think of “<” as an “L,” which is smaller than “G” in “>” to remember “less than” and “greater than.”

What does ≥ mean (greater than or equal to)? “≥” represents “greater than or equal to.”

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What are the 3 basic comparing symbols? The three basic comparing symbols are “<” (less than), “>” (greater than), and “=” (equal to).

What does ∧ mean in math? “∧” is often used to represent logical conjunction (AND) in mathematical logic.

What are the two types of symbols? Symbols can be categorized into various types, but broadly, they can be alphanumeric (letters and numbers) and special characters (e.g., mathematical symbols).

How do you use the approximate symbol in a sentence? You can use “≈” in a sentence like this: “The value of π is approximately equal to 3.14.”

How do you use approximately equal? You can use “≈” to indicate approximate equality, such as “The estimated weight of the object is 5.2 kg ≈ 5 kg.”

What does a squiggle on top mean? A squiggle on top of a letter, like “ñ,” is called a tilde (~) and can indicate a specific pronunciation or modification of the letter.

How do you write approximately? You write “approximately” in full when describing something, e.g., “The temperature is approximately 25 degrees Celsius.”

What is the short form for approximate? The short form for approximate is “approx.”

What is the meaning of the symbol (=)? The symbol “=” is used to denote equality, indicating that two values or expressions are exactly the same.

What is the meaning of the symbol ()? The symbol “” is often used as a backslash in computing and mathematics to denote various operations or paths.

What is the meaning of * in texting? In texting, “*” can be used for emphasis, as a wildcard, or to represent a star or action.

What are the 20 mathematical symbols? There are more than 20 mathematical symbols, but some common ones include “+,” “-“, “*”, “/”, “=”, “<,” “>”, “≤,” “≥,” “≠,” “∞,” “π,” “∑,” “√,” and “≈.”

What does * mean in a math problem? In a math problem, “*” is often used as a multiplication symbol.

What is a caret symbol? A caret symbol (^) can represent exponentiation or indicate a missing or inserted element in text.

What does a double tilde mean? A double tilde (“~~”) is sometimes used to indicate an approximation, similar to a single tilde.

Does tilde mean approximately? Yes, a tilde (~) is often used to indicate approximation or similarity in various contexts.

Which symbol is used for congruent? The symbol “≅” is used to denote congruence, indicating two geometric shapes are congruent.

How do you use the less than symbol? You can use “<” to compare two values, with the smaller value on the left and the larger value on the right, e.g., “3 < 5.”

How do you write “10 is greater than 5”? You write “10 > 5” to express that 10 is greater than 5.

How do you write “greater than 65”? You write it as “x > 65” if you want to represent a variable “x” as greater than 65.

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How do you write “less than 15”? You write it as “x < 15” if you want to represent a variable “x” as less than 15.

How do you write “less than 10”? You write it as “x < 10” to represent a variable “x” as less than 10.

How do you use less than and greater than symbols? You use “<” for “less than” and “>” for “greater than” when comparing values in mathematical expressions, equations, or inequalities.

How do you write “less than or equal to”? You write it as “≤” to represent “less than or equal to” in mathematical expressions, e.g., “x ≤ 5” means “x is less than or equal to 5.”

Conclusion

In summary, both ≈ and ~ have their uses, but ≈ is considered more technically correct in contexts where mathematical, scientific or statistical rigor is needed. The ≈ symbol has precise meanings defined around approximation and significance. In contrast, ~ is broadly interpreted to convey similarity and approximation conversationally. Following the guidelines on when to use each symbol can help communicate ideas with the suitable level of precision and formality for the intended audience. However, when in doubt, opting for ≈ errs on the side of accuracy. With the proper context and clear intent, though, both ≈ and ~ can effectively serve their complementary roles in expressing the nuances of approximation.

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