I was writing up a proof, but wasn't satisfied with what I was coming up with. The logic is there, but I wasn't able to express it clearly in math lingo. I was about to describe my work as "floozy" but then I looked up the definition and decided that wasn't the best idea.

What words do you use to describe proofs you're not quite happy with?

  • $\begingroup$ How about "Incorrect"! $\endgroup$ – almagest Mar 19 '16 at 17:20
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    $\begingroup$ I would call it handwavy. $\endgroup$ – Foobaz John Mar 19 '16 at 17:25
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    $\begingroup$ Stinky, sucks, ugly, non-elegant. $\endgroup$ – DonAntonio Mar 19 '16 at 17:26
  • $\begingroup$ heuristic argument? $\endgroup$ – achille hui Mar 19 '16 at 17:26
  • $\begingroup$ @FoobazJohn Interesting, I use handwavy as more of an indication that the "proof" I'm giving is more of a sketch rather than a full rigorous argument. $\endgroup$ – ÍgjøgnumMeg Mar 19 '16 at 17:32

Here are several adjectives that I have heard used to describe proofs:

Wrong, false, flawed: there are serious problems with the logic used.

Incomplete, weak, partial: fails to completely address the statement being proved.

Hand wavy, outline, sketch, reductive, imprecise: the proof is heuristic, giving ideas and motivations without being rigorous.

Clunky, confusing: the proof is correct and rigorous, but poorly structured.

Terse: the proof is so short so as to be confusing.

Wordy, long winded: the proof is longer or more complicated than it needs to be.

Heavy-handed, overpowered: the proof uses techniques or results which are far more powerful or advanced than need be used.

Inelegant: the proof uses simple but time consuming techniques, when better ways exist.

Technical: the proof uses long, possibly boring arguments for which there is no reasonable alternative.

There are positive ones too.

Clear: the proof is very easy to understand.

Concise: the proof is short by eliminating unnecessary phraseology.

Elementary: the proof does not use advanced techniques, especially when more advanced proofs exist.

Clever, interesting: the proof uses ideas that are are not obvious, or may even be novel.

Beautiful: a proof that is very clever, clear, and well written so that it elicits an positive emotional response.

Cute: a simple, clever proof that is not quite beautiful.

Elegant: the highest praise a proof can receive, such a proof is beautiful, and relies on a simple but not obvious idea.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 BTW, the highest form of praise a proof can receive is probably it can be included in THE BOOK (the one God personally keep for the most elegant proofs ) $\endgroup$ – achille hui Mar 19 '16 at 20:03
  • $\begingroup$ @achillehui . The Old Book or the New Book? $\endgroup$ – DanielWainfleet Mar 21 '16 at 22:30
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    $\begingroup$ @user254665 No idea. Since I'm on an express lane to hell, I won't have the chance to ask. $\endgroup$ – achille hui Mar 21 '16 at 22:34

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