Contents

Idea

The sign function on the real numbers.

Definition

$\array{ \mathbb{R} &\overset{sgn}{\longrightarrow}& \mathbb{R} \\ x &\mapsto& \left\{ \array{ 1 &\vert& x \gt 0 \\ 0 &\vert& x = 0 \\ -1 &\vert& x \lt 0 }\right. }$

Some definitions will modify the value at $0$, usually to make it $1$, $-1$, or undefined. In many applications, the sign function is essentially treated as a measurable function on the real line with Lebesgue measure, and then these are all essentially the same since they are all almost equal. But some applications require the function to be left-? or right-continuous?, and then the value of $0$ must be chosen appropriately, while the handy formula $x/{|x|}$ naturally makes the value at $0$ undefined.