The more I read on-line, the more I think the mathematicians have it right. The meaning of 4+3*6 is perfectly well defined. You have to do the multiplication first.
If you want to force the addition to be be done first, you just slip in some parentheses: (4+3)*6.
Sadly, text isn’t like that. And with the internet encouraging writing by all and sundry, and forcing hurried writing by those who should know better, it’s easy to produce potentially ambiguous statements like this, from a piece about the need to encourage social inclusion by reading, on the London Book Fair site:
Not only are those who read less likely to be divorced, but they are less likely to smoke and be unemployed
My original reading of the first phrase parsed “those who read less” as a unit, and the phrase apparently claimed members of this group were “likely to be divorced”.
Continue reading “parenthetical pedantry”