I have to explain in words this formula:
A = -log(X)
My guesses would be either:
- A is the minus logarithm of X
- A is minus the logarithm of X
Is one of these expressions, or yet another one, correct?
After a long debate, it's clear that almost everyone normally writes in words
A = -log(X) as either of:
A is minus the logarithm of X.
A is (the) negative the logarithm of X.
There is also evidence that some people use one exclusively over the other. It looks like British English favors the former (minus), while American English favors the latter (negative).
The following are also used, albeit not formally accurate:
A is minus logarithm of X
A is (the) negative logarithm of X
The reason for the inaccuracy is that there is only one logarithm, not one positive and one negative from which you could choose. However, this usage seems okay in some contexts, especially those in which logarithms are multiplied by -1 all the time (Chemistry's pH, for instance).
In spoken language, the same is true, often shortening the logarithm of to simply log and the like.
In order to avoid giving the impression that the final result of
-log(X) is negative, however, some (not many) authors will use:
A is the opposite of the logarithm of X
This is much less popular than the other choices, and some people may mistake its meaning for
exp(X) rather than
Do use minus/negative the logarithm in general writing and speaking as it is much more current and understood by almost everyone, while also being formally accurate. In special contexts where the resulting sign issue might be a concern (perhaps elementary algebra), it may be more effective to address the possible misconception in an additional note than to resort to the opposite of form.
References for the unpopular opposite of variation:
http://www.google.com/search?q="opposite of the logarithm"
It depends on your audience.
With any mathematical audience, you can write:
A is the negative of the logarithm of X.
In speech, you can also say:
A is minus the logarithm of X.
A is the negative of log X.
A is minus log X.
Some mathematically knowledgeable audiences work a lot with the logarithms of small fractions, but for convenience, they prefer to work with positive numbers. (The logarithm of a fraction is always negative.) If X is expected to be between 0.0 and 1.0, people in these fields would usually say:
A is the negative logarithm of X.
expecting that A will be positive. For example, in chemistry, you speak often of pH, where H is the concentration of available hydrogen ions in a solution—usually a very small fraction. An acidic solution with an H+ concentration of 10–4 is said to have a pH of 4. In fact, in chemistry, the p prefix is actually defined as a general mathematical operator with exactly this meaning:
In general, a lowercase "p" before a symbol means "negative logarithm of the symbol." (From Chemistry, by Whitten, Davis, Peck, and Stanley (2013), p. 713.)
You can find the term "negative logarithm" in almost any standard textbook explanation of pH.
People also become accustomed to saying "negative logarithm" when they work with information theory and statistics. In those fields, you often take the logarithms of probabilities. Since probabilities are usually fractions, this would result in negative numbers, so people customarily take "the negative log" so they can work with positive numbers. This Google Books search will show you lots of examples from fields outside chemistry.
If you're talking with an algebraist, and you're making a point about the logarithm being a homomorphism from addition to multiplication, you could say:
A is the additive inverse of the logarithm of X.
but that would be very unusual. Normally you just say "negative".
In British English, "A is minus the logarithm of x" is fine; American English would, I think, prefer "negative" instead of "minus".
In British English, "minus" does not refer only to the operation of subtraction but also to what programming langauges would call the "unary minus" operation. Some examples of negative numbers are "minus one", "minus two" and so on. Since we're happy to take "two" to "minus two", we're happy to take "the logarithm of x" to "minus the logarithm of x". (Conversely, if you want to emphasize that a quantity is positive, you can say, for example, "plus three"; I'm not sure if Americans would prefer "positive three".)
"The minus logarithm of x" doesn't work because it suggests there's a thing called a "minus logarithm" and you're taking that function of x. On the other hand, the comments indicate that "the negative logarithm of x" is quite often used to mean "-log x". "Minus" and "negative" aren't quite synonyms: you'll notice that, above, I said "negative numbers"; "minus numbers" would be considered incorrect even in British English.
Certainly in a modern, British classroom, we would probably simply read this aloud as:
A equals minus log x
For us, it would not really be necessary to expand everything out. For example, I would never say "the logarithm of" - much too wordy. In fact, we even took notes on "laws of logs", not "laws of logarithms".
However, because of this tendency to abbreviate, stress, intonation and timing become very important. To indicate that log is a function acting on x (i.e. that log goes with x), we would say something like:
A equals minus (log x)
There is a small pause between the "minus" and the "log x" and "log x" is said in a bit of a rush.
This is something that can only come with practise and is practical in a classroom setting where people likely have the equation written out in front of them.
The take home message is that, certainly for me, I have always been taught to read mathematics using the short forms (I say log, not the logarithm), but I use pauses, stress and intonation to indicate what goes with what.
Consider another example:
a - (b + c)
Would be read:
a [pause] minus [pause] b plus c
With the italics indicating stress and b plus c pronounced all in one go.
a - b + c
Would just be:
a minus b plus c
N.B.: I don't know if you're a mathematician, but if you are, you should be aware that some people use the pronunciation "log" for the natural logarithm - log_e or ln - where others use it for the common logarithm - log_10/log/Log/lg. There is, then, a danger with simply saying "log", so you should know your audience. It may be necessary to specify the base you are using. We would say, in this case, "log to the base 10" for log_10.
You could say "A is equal to negative log X". Minus is generally refers to the operation of subtraction. Saying additive inverse is also perfectly correct, but rather cumbersome. Saying "A is equal to the opposite of the logarithm of X" is really imprecise, because opposite isn't a well-defined mathematical term. The "opposite" of log(X) could be any of -log(x), 1/log(x), or exp(X). Negative leaves no ambiguity about your meaning and is very concise.
If I was speaking casually, I'd read it "A is minus log x". If more formally, "A equals negative logarithm x" or "A equals the negative of the logarithm of x".
I probably wouldn't say "negative log x", without the word "of", because that makes it sound like there is a negative log and a positive log. Like there is a negative square root and a positive square root. On the other hand, if the audience knows anything about logs, they now that they don't come in pairs like that, so this would only be a valid concern if you were teaching what logarithms are or some such.
I'm sure some pedants would say that "minus" is a binary operation, i.e. you can talk about "x minus y", but you can't say "minus x", you must say "negative of x". But there's little gained from such a distinction.