"If and Only If" Should Be Spelled "Ifeff"

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21 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 10:14 PM

I'd argue that people who are not familiar with "iff" are usually unfamiliar with its full version "if and only if" as well and, unaware of the need for such distinction, tend to treat regular "if" as bidirectional. These two mistakes will cancel each other out and they won't miss said something key.

What about "**if(f)**"? Pronounced 'ifeff', but spelled 'if(f)' so it's both:

- Easy to tell that this is a variant of 'if', and if you round things off to colloquial 'if' then you'll at least
*sort of*get what's being said (context probably helps). - Easy to tell that it's not just 'if' or a typo for 'if'.

I think the reason "iff" hasn't caught on more broadly is because it's easily misread as "if"

Also, if you aren't familiar with "iff" you might see it and assume it's just a typo for "if". Jargon catches on better if it's *obviously* jargon, so people can google it or ask questions when they notice they don't understand.

Why 'ifeff', though? I'm not seeing a logical connection between the '-eff' and '... and only if'. I'd have expected the best shorthand to look more connected to the original, like 'iffo'.

I see a major problem here, which is all the worse for simplicity. It sounds like a censored swear word. The types that would actually use this in the beginning are being technical, and it isn't very technical to be swearing about if and only if [publicly]. It sounds more appropriate for a rant. The current implementation has problems, but 'iff' is clearly superior to the proposed alternative.

If and only ifis an important logical concept, useful in many contexts, both mathematical and nonmathematical. Unfortunately, "if and only if" is also an unwieldy five-syllable phrase. Mathematicians have solved this problem by shortening it to "iff". Unfortunately, this shortening has not caught on in non-mathematical contexts. This makes some communication and thinking unwieldy and ambiguous.I think the reason "iff" hasn't caught on more broadly is because it's easily misread as "if", and doesn't have an intuitive pronunciation. I think both of these problems would be solved by changing the spelling to "ifeff" (prononunced /ɪfɛff/). The etymology is that you take "iff", and pronounce the second "f" separately. This would slightly improve the thinking and communication of most English speakers.

I think a small group of people using "ifeff" in their writing would likely start a process where "ifeff" eventually takes over, via the usual process by which vocabulary spreads, and that "ifeff" would be used by groups that don't currently have a short-enough word for this concept. I also think the correspondence between "iff" and "ifeff" is intuitive enough that this will not cause very much confusion.