+5 votes
asked ago in General Economics Questions by (460 points)
I personally dislike LaTeX as I find it completely inefficient, especially when you are working with multiple authors. However, some people I know believe that editors/referees will look down on the paper if it's done in Word instead of LaTeX. Is this true? Are you more likely to publish the paper if it's written in LaTeX instead of Word holding the quality of the paper constant?
commented ago by (800 points)
Why do you think it is inefficient with multiple authors? And is the question only for editors or also for referees who only make recommendations but ultimately cannot decide whether to "publish" a paper or not?
commented ago by (3.3k points)
edited ago by
SEe below.  I changed mine to be answer instead of a comment.
commented ago by (460 points)
@Michael_Greinecker: Because there are no track changes. It's for both :-)
commented ago by (420 points)
I've found that using the LaTeX font (LM Roman, I think) and justifying the text goes a long way to making Word look like LaTeX.

9 Answers

+3 votes
answered ago by (210 points)
From personal experience as a referee, I feel that LaTeX inadvertently serves as a signal. Or, rather, not using LaTeX seems odd, especially when using multiple equations in a paper.

If the paper is top (or bad), I couldn't care less about the form, so it is never a decisive factor. However, when in doubt about empirical rigour, the form factor might play a role for many referees as it could serve as a (probably bad) proxy for analytical skills.
+5 votes
answered ago by (3.3k points)
I'm pretty sure you could make word look nearly exactly like latex if you want to.  

Does it matter?  I'd be surprised if you did a latex/word  RCT and it matters.  

What does matter?  Here are the two best investments involving your paper (other than your findings) that influence publication odds:

Get a good copy editor.  

Write an awesome introduction/conclusion.  If you think your introduction is good, think again.  Go read a recently published paper in the QJE or AER and most often the introduction simply rocks.  They found a question no else could answer that was important and found a way to answer it.  The single time I've published in a Top 5 journal, I probably wrote the best introduction I've written so far.  My findings and set up helped (I think they were great, but I'm not biased at all), but I found the right gap in the literature, why that gap mattered, and why my paper was the first to fill in that gap.  Focus on finding knowledge gaps and how your paper fills them and your papers will be better received.
commented ago by (950 points)
<<I'm pretty sure you could make word look nearly exactly like latex if you want to.  >>

Not true. Latex produces beautiful math, somehow microsoft coders were never able to match its quality.
commented ago by (150 points)
I've had pretty good luck with the equation editor in Office products lately. The syntax appears to be (basically) the same as LaTeX. Fractions, super/sub scripting, hats of different kinds. I mostly use it in PPT for lecture slides, so there might be some/many functions I'm not using.

I could see this being pretty different across sub-fields. As an applied micro person, I don't need so many equations per paper.
commented ago by (410 points)
As a copyeditor, I can say that finding one is a great idea. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but a copyeditor is like a second set of eyes and has experience editing papers.
+6 votes
answered ago by (1.3k points)
I don't think using LaTeX makes it more likely that a paper is accepted.  I do think that poor formatting probably sends a negative signal to editors and reviewers, but papers can be formatted professionally in either Word or LaTeX.  I've never thought about which program was used to generate the papers I review.

For those who dislike using LaTeX when working with coauthors because of the lack of track-changes, a very easy solution is to use Overleaf.com, which now incorporates the old ShareLaTeX system and easily tracks changes and allows you to revert to previous versions of your document.  It works nicely with DropBox for having access to files offline, and when online, you can compile in a browser window -- it's pretty user friendly.  (Using it in a browser is also easy for people who don't usually work with LaTeX, because they can edit the text part of the document without worrying about installing a LaTeX package.)  You can use it for free on your own, but sharing a document does require that the document owner has a paid, $10/month account.  I find it well worth the cost.
commented ago by (950 points)
LyX tracks changes too and can be a good compromise for people who want latex quality/output but want a more standard editor.
+2 votes
answered ago by (610 points)
I use Word more often than I use LaTeX. I agree w/ other comments that as long as the paper is written clearly and formatted cleanly, I probably wouldn't even notice whether it's in LaTeX or Word. Now that I've been an editor for about two years, I could definitely imagine a non-zero effect of "clean formatting" on the odds that referees like a paper, but I don't think that needs to be done using LaTeX.
0 votes
answered ago by (410 points)
It shouldn't matter, but equations look better in LaTeX. Just make sure it is clearly written and neatly formatted. What the editors care most about is the actual content and the cohesiveness of the paper.
+3 votes
answered ago by (450 points)
I am on the market this year and I have had more than one person tell me that I should put my whole JMP into Latex because it may matter substantively for getting a job.

I found this assertion to be disturbingly unscientific and faddish, but I guess maybe that’s the world we are living in. I am going ahead and testing the proposition that you can get a job with a JMP neatly typeset in Word. Will report back.

(Note: I stopped using Latex a couple years ago to facilitate markup and collaboration and find the equation editor perfectly serviceable for any low to moderate amount  of equation typesetting.)
commented ago by (110 points)
I did the same! I know Latex pretty well but submitted JMP in Word :) let's see whether it goes forward :)
0 votes
answered ago by (320 points)
Archaic as I am, I want to put in a word for WordPerfect’s “old” equation editor, dating back to its DOS days.  It can still be found in modern releases, but you have to dig into the graphics settings to change the defaults, and there is no documentation for it.  (I had to buy a 20 year old or so used manual online; I’ll be happy to send a scan to anyone who needs the section on equations.)

What makes it valuable is that it’s completely text-based, as befits a DOS-era program.  It incorporates a much more extensive and finely-tuned set of formatting tools than object-based alternatives, and it’s a wonder for copy-and-paste jobs like big matrices or equation sequences with repeating expressions.

The chief drawbacks are (1) equations are lost in export to Word and (2) they are bolded and rather ugly in export to pdf.  Using cropped screen grabs is a possibility, but it means that the resulting document is not editable; this is also problematic for inline equations.  These don’t bother me so much for the type of writing I do—I never publish in journals but only in books, reports, PowerPoints, etc.—but I can understand why it would be a deal-breaker for most academic economists.

ps: The spell-checker doesn't recognize "WordPerfect"!
0 votes
answered ago by (160 points)
You can implement track changes functionality in LaTeX with two lines of code in the preamble:


You could also use a git repository with your coauthor, which is a much more robust and long-term way to track document changes and versions than Word's track changes feature.

I'd be surprised if your choice of tool had much of an effect on the final outcome for your paper. But Word has a number of shortcomings from the reader's point of view. It has poor equation spacing, incomplete OpenType support, a poor layout engine that produces excessive hyphenation and wildly inconsistent inter-word spacing, poor figure/table placement logic, and no proper plotting or figure-drawing functionality. Word does not automatically implement kerning or ligatures, and doesn't seem able to do real smallcaps at all. LaTeX not only gets this stuff right, but, for the most part, it does it without any user intervention.
commented ago by (950 points)
"  \usepackage[normalem]{ulem}

    You could also use a git repository

You're responding to a person that doesn't want to use LaTeX by telling them to use git? .... seriously?
commented ago by (160 points)
It depends on the reason for not using LaTeX. If someone doesn't want to use LaTeX because they find it difficult to use then I wouldn't recommend git as the solution! But the OP's hesitation seems to be largely about LaTeX's lack of collaborative tools such as track changes.  In those circumstances, I think it appropriate to have an answer here explaining how to achieve track changes functionality and version control in LaTeX – especially considering that more people will read this post than just the OP.
commented ago by (950 points)
Come on, I understand nerdy but even nerds understand that git is not meant for the general public. Ever tried to solve a conflict? This is a person that dislikes latex, imagine git! If you want a use-friendly solution compatible with latex and with track changes, the best solution is LyX, which is fairly mature (the only problem being: too many options)
0 votes
answered ago by (950 points)
I doubt it makes much of an effect. It's true that the paper looks more beautiful in latex and no, you can't reproduce it in word, but many people don't care enough