(Excerpt from "The MathML Handbook" by Pavi Sandhu)
The mi element is used to represent identifiers; that is, names of variables and functions. Examples are:
<mi>x</mi> <mi>sin</mi> <mi>F</mi>
Symbolic constants such as , e, and i are also represented using an mi element, as shown here:
<mi>π</mi> <mi>ⅇ</mi> <mi>ⅈ</mi>
Not every identifier is represented using an mi element. For example, subscripted or primed variables are represented using an msub or msup element, respectively. Conversely, you can include any text in an mi element, if it is to be rendered as an identifier. A typical example is an ellipsis that represents a term in a series, as shown below:
The mi element accepts all the common style attributes defined for token elements. However, the mathvariant and fontstyle attributes have a different default value for mi elements. The default value is italic if the content of the mi element is a single character, and normal otherwise. This reflects the convention that variables and functions represented by single letters are typeset in an italic font.
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