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I find a few typos a few days after submitting a paper in the field of applied math (mathematical social science). The typos are in the proof to the main theorem: I've wrongly written some variables "j" as "i". Some formulas were supposed to contain both i's and j's, but some of them were switched to the other one.

So I guess this could be a decisive factor.

I've checked two similar questions here; the answers are suggesting "Don't worry. Typos are not decisive factors". However in math, it is usual that the referees have a high standard of rigidity, and say that they cannot understand the proof, because it is mistaken.

Shall I email the editor as soon as possible? The status is "under review".

4 Answers 4

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How major are the typos?

If they are minor and do not affect comprehension - e.g. if you spelled "typo" as "tpyo" - then there's no need to email the editor and you can fix the error during revision or production.

On the other hand, if you e.g. used the wrong symbol in an equation - then the typo can potentially confuse the reviewer. It's a more serious problem, and you should email the editor to save the reviewer's time.

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  • I appreciate the answer. It is the second case: I mess-up with "i" and "j". It will confuse the reviewers and will be at least considered as sloppy, I guess.
    – High GPA
    Jul 2 at 15:19
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    If all the i's and j's are the same variable, I wouldn't worry about it. Only if the formulas were supposed to contain both i's and j's, but some of them were switched to the other one, would I worry about understandability at this point. Jul 2 at 19:33
  • @GregMartin Yes the latter case was exactly what I did: some formulas were supposed to contain both i's and j's, but some of them were switched to the other one.
    – High GPA
    Jul 2 at 21:30
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    Certain kinds of typos in math equations can do a lot worse than just confusing the reviewer. Depending on the details, using the wrong symbols in a proof can not only impair understanding, but wholly invalidate the result. When the proof in question is the main centerpiece of the paper, typos can be critical must-fix issues.
    – Douglas
    Jul 3 at 0:40
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    @HighGPA Contact the editor, and don't use the word "typo" in your email to the editor. Instead, describe it as errors in the main proof's equations/formulas. That description will much more accurately communicate why you consider these mistakes important enough to contact the editor about.
    – Douglas
    Jul 3 at 5:19
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Typographical errors can be dealt with during the proofing phase of an article, even after it is accepted for publication. There is no need to contact the editor in this case; reviewers may point out typographical errors, but they would not usually be determinative of a recommendation on a paper. If you receive a revise-and-resubmit then you can deal with the typographical errors then, and even if you receive an acceptance, you can deal with them during the proofing stage for the article.

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  • Thanks for your answer. Here is what I did. Some formulas were supposed to contain both i's and j's, but some of them were switched to the other one. So I think the understandability is affected.
    – High GPA
    Jul 2 at 21:32
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    If you've accidentally switched variables in a formula, that is a substantive error in the formula, rather than just a typographical error. In any case, you will have an opportunity for corrections in the revision stage.
    – Ben
    Jul 3 at 1:53
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A few misplaced symbols in a few equations seems too small to bother the editor with. If your paper is well written, with examples in addition to theorems and proofs, the referee will probably work around these mistakes. After all, for every mistake you notice, there are probably three you have not noticed.

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Why not contact the journal? I cannot think of a downside.

I personally hate having to correct typos in an article I am reviewing. It makes me feel like the author is simply careless and is inappropriately relying on the review process to get things right.

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    Contact the journal is just like contacting the super-busy editor. A lot of people are suggesting that typos are ok: this is why I am hesitating.
    – High GPA
    Jul 2 at 23:44
  • @HighGPA - while I have never edited a journal, I know several people who have. I think this kind of thing is pretty much what they signed up for. Many things they have to deal with (i.e. conflicts, inappropriate comments, childish behavior) are way more onerous than this :-)
    – plasmo
    Jul 4 at 20:21

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