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What is our stance on questions aimed at understanding the origin of notations used in personal finance? Are they on-topic or off-topic?

Example: Presenting negative numbers using parentheses: where does this practice come from?

The standard accounting way is always to show negative numbers in parentheses. Where does this practice come from?

For example, this cash flow statement use parentheses indicate negative values:

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  • Does the downvote mean on-topic or off-topic? – Franck Dernoncourt May 30 '17 at 20:11
  • No. Not really. The question is appropriate to meta if you feel strongly that the original question was on topic for Money.SE. At this point, there's the potential for voting to re-open, or answers here. The current single answer supports the close. – JTP - Apologise to Monica May 30 '17 at 22:49
  • @JoeTaxpayer " The question is appropriate to meta if you feel strongly that the original question was on topic for Money.SE" -> No, I just wanted to clarify the scope. I think the question is appropriate regardless of my own opinion. – Franck Dernoncourt May 30 '17 at 22:51
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    Right. The meta-question is legit. The right place to discuss scope of site. It really shouldn't be getting voted down. – JTP - Apologise to Monica May 30 '17 at 22:52
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I was unsure about this question, but not enough to vote to close it. It's kind of like asking why the US uses a comma to indicate thousands and a period to begin decimals while some countries use a the reverse.

Parenthetical negative notation is really common in accounting, why that started is anyone's guess. The answer that was posted is logical, though it's also anyone's guess if it's accurate. With the exception of the fact that this notation exists, it's pretty irrelevant to personal finance...

  • "why that started is anyone's guess." -> notations sometimes do have a very clear origin, e.g. Why is American and French notation different for open intervals (x, y) vs. ]x, y[?. – Franck Dernoncourt May 30 '17 at 22:35
  • " it's pretty irrelevant to personal finance... " -> I believe this notation is only used in finance. – Franck Dernoncourt May 30 '17 at 22:38
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    @FranckDernoncourt maybe the science and math people have an opinion about parenthetical negatives in accounting. I can tell you that I personally could not care less where it came from and have offered my opinion in response to your meta question about the closing of your question. It is irrelevant to personal finance insofar as it has nothing to do with finance as a concept and only to do with presenting financial statements. – quid May 30 '17 at 22:38
  • questions pertaining to mathematical notations are on-topic on the mathematics Stack Exchange website. Why would questions pertaining to financial notations be off-topic on this website? – Franck Dernoncourt May 30 '17 at 22:46
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    I have absolutely no idea what is on topic in the math stack, again, I'm offering you my opinion about why your question was closed as off topic in the personal finance stack. As far as I'm concerned the origin of how a negative is presented on a financial statement has nothing to do with personal finance as a concept. I'll concede that some other stacks may have more reverence for histories of their topic than this one, but it's worth noting that you linked to "the history of math and science" which is specifically about the history of the topic, not the topic itself. – quid May 30 '17 at 22:56
  • "but it's worth noting that you linked to "the history of math and science" which is specifically about the history of the topic, not the topic itself" -> math.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/notation: "Question on the meaning, history, and usage of mathematical symbols and notation." – Franck Dernoncourt May 30 '17 at 23:05
  • @FranckDernoncourt, and you might notice there is no notation tag on this stack. – quid May 30 '17 at 23:07
  • I guess there are fewer notations encountered in personal finance than there are in mathematics. – Franck Dernoncourt May 30 '17 at 23:09

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