I am writing a paper that is in two column format, and I am working on a proof that I am having trouble making readable in the two column format.

Specifically, I am working with subscripts such as t-1, t, and t+1, but the subscripts t-1 and t+1 make the equations too long. If I omit the subscripts, then the proof is not clear, if I include the subscripts, the equations span many lines...

I am not sure what I should do.

Note: I am not sure if this is a proper stack exchange site.

Edit: I am deriving a function that looks like this x_{i+k} = g(x_i,\theta_{i,i+k}) where $\theta_{i,i+k}$ is a complicated parameter that take x_i to x_{i+k}. I derived earlier in the paper a recurrence x(i+1) = g(x_i, a, b, ...). So, in the proof, I am showing how to compute \theta_{i,i+k}.

  • It's difficult to advise on the formatting of equations without a concrete example. There are likely some tricks that you can use, but they really depend on your equations. Can you give a equation?
    – user2768
    Commented Nov 25, 2020 at 16:07
  • 1
    One solution is to bundle equations into a two-column figure.
    – user2768
    Commented Nov 25, 2020 at 16:07
  • @user2768 The equation is complex, but I edited my question to include the general idea if that is helpful.
    – Ralff
    Commented Nov 25, 2020 at 16:32
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    A proper stack exchange site or the proper stack exchange site? If the former, then yes we are :) if the latter, you may find some useful info at tex.stackexchange.com. Commented Nov 25, 2020 at 17:59
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    If you're using LaTeX, APS journals typically accept the widetext environment to span the two columns, which is available from revtex. You could try that out, although your specific publisher may not accept it.
    – Miguel
    Commented Nov 25, 2020 at 22:07

1 Answer 1


Here are some ideas from a physics perspective. We often have to deal with long equations.

If you have the occasional over-long equation, then sparing use of the two-column environment or slightly smaller font size can be the good choices. (Assuming the journal accepts it.) Suppressing meaningful indices like this can be OK if they are repeated, but if the same equation contains both t-1, and t+1 you probably want to avoid it since it reduces clarity. A great alternative is to abstract more. Define new symbols containing part of your expressions, so that each shown equation becomes shorter - and if done right, easier to interpret. Of course, this comes at the cost of a higher total number of equations.

Finally, sometimes it's best to put a simplified equation in the main paper, and full expressions in the appendices. However, if the proof is central to your paper you probably don't want to do that.

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    In addition, physics journals know how to typeset long equations that stretch across the full page, so really one should leave it up to the journal layout folks.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Nov 25, 2020 at 16:17
  • Thanks for the insight. The journal does not allow reducing font size. Unfortunetely, I do have t-1, t, and t+1 in a single equation. Typically, if I just have t and t+1, I use for example x and x'. I suppose I could add additional prime symbols e.g., x', x'', x'''. In this particular proof I don't have exponents for those terms.
    – Ralff
    Commented Nov 25, 2020 at 16:19

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