I am Ph.D. student in mathematics. One of my articles has been accepted by a journal. The editor asked me to remove the unnecessary macros before sending the LaTeX file to the journal. What do they mean by macros? Do I need to change the preamble of the LaTeX editor? Or something else?

For example, I have used the command \enquote{} to add inverted commas to highlight some specific words or lines. Is this considered a macro ?

Whenever I write some large mathematics expressions, I use separate lines and either $$ $$ or \begin{align*} \end{align*} or simply \begin{align} \end{align} when I need an equation number.

I am not sure what is treated as a macro. About a year ago, I got the same instructions from a journal, and somehow I managed that time, but I cannot recall what exactly I did to remove macros. Maybe I removed some commands like \textit{} or \textbf{} etc. But I can not recall properly.

The current paper will be my second publication.

I hope some math experts will guide me regarding macros.

  • 44
    You should just ask the editor what they mean.
    – user438383
    Commented Jun 26, 2023 at 13:15
  • 5
    Please refrain from answering in comments. Commented Jun 26, 2023 at 13:19
  • 8
    This is often included in "boilerplate" formatting instructions that they send to every author. If your file doesn't contain any macros (which is probably the case if you don't know what a macro is), then this doesn't apply to you and you can just ignore it. Commented Jun 26, 2023 at 17:10
  • 3
    @Nate I think that's an answer
    – Cheery
    Commented Jun 28, 2023 at 14:29

5 Answers 5


Presumably part of what they are asking you to do is to remove macros from the preamble that are not used in the paper. It might also mean that if you defined your own command \ABC as an abbreviation for \mathbf{A+B^{C}}, you should actually use Ctrl+R to replace \ABC by \mathbf{A+B^{C}} throughout the paper.

It certainly doesn't mean that you should remove normal commands which actually do some work like \textit or \enquote from your manuscript.

In any case, this probably isn't something that you can really "do wrong". It's not like they will return the manuscript to you until it complies with some mystery list of requirements which you need to guess on your own. It's just a matter of making work easier for the production team by not having them spend too much time on decyphering your cryptic commands.

Incidentally, note that the syntax $$...$$ is deprecated.

  • 2
    Should I use $...$ instead of all $$...$$ in that some mathematical expression would be split from one line to next lines. Or should I use \[...\] instead as the link mentioned
    – learner
    Commented Jun 26, 2023 at 13:36
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    $...$ and $$...$$ serve a different function, so certainly you shouldn't use $...$ instead of all $$...$$. Commented Jun 26, 2023 at 13:46
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    Just to be more explicit, the problem is typically with macros defined by yourself with \def, \newcommand, \renewcommand. \newenvironment and the like. In my experience amsmath's \DeclareMathOperator and \DeclarePairedDelimiter are usually tolerated. Commented Jun 26, 2023 at 14:04
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    The use case for the editor is as follows: if they take 5 different tex files from different people and paste them together into a single file, will it still compile and look like the individual papers looked like before? A macro can wreak havoc if you try to do this kind of thing and that is the kind of macro the editor wants to avoid.
    – quarague
    Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 13:10
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    @quarague But why does the journal have to merge tex files in the first place? Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 18:38

I would interpret "macros" as any user-defined commands, i.e. things that appear in your preamble using \newcommand, \renewcommand, \providecommand or \def. (You should probably not be using the last at all.)

It is very common to see people define macros that are never used, or even define two macros that do the same thing and use both. Sometimes this is because they have a preamble that they just copy from paper to paper, which accumulates detritus. Probably that is all they want you to get rid of.

However, macros can be a headache for journals because they may clash with (have the same name as) macros they define as part of their formatting. This will cause different problems depending on how you defined yours: \newcommand will fail to compile, \renewcommand will redefine to your meaning, causing their uses to have unexpected behaviour, and \providecommand will keep their meaning, perhaps causing your uses to have unexpected behaviour. (This is why you should use \newcommand unless there is a very good reason not to.)

A good way to avoid clashes is to avoid defining macros with very short names.

  • 13
    +1 for "accumulates detritus". I think my preambles have macros that I haven't used in 10-20 years.
    – Lee Mosher
    Commented Jun 26, 2023 at 22:35
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    @LeeMosher That's what \renewcommand is for! (writing over your old macros)
    – Kimball
    Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 22:02

I agree with the other two answers, but I wanted to add that this is a sufficiently common problem that there is actually a nice tool made to deal with it: the de-macro package. It comes with TeX Live, for example.

I always run this as part of my submission process, because some journals I've published in (Physical Review) don't mention that they fail to deal with macros properly, they just send you back proofs that are all screwed up, and you have to search through carefully to find every single place they screwed up.

Note that I think it doesn't work with \def, so for this reason among many others, @EspeciallyLime had it right when saying you shouldn't use \def.

  • Thank you. I use the usual command \begin{defn}...\end{defn} to write a definition.
    – learner
    Commented Jun 28, 2023 at 0:10
  • 3
    I think Mike means that you should use \newcommand instead of \def, but it sounds like you're not using \def anyway. Commented Jun 28, 2023 at 7:18
  • @learner OP does not refer to definitions in the mathematical sense, but to definitions of new commands and macros for use in Latex. Anyway I am not sure where that "usual command" comes from, but defn is not a standard environment, and it does not conform to the usual Latex naming conventions: environment names composed of a single word are usually not abbreviated. Commented Jul 1, 2023 at 9:14
  • @FedericoPoloni, by usual command I mean the old fashioned probably. I just mean literally
    – learner
    Commented Jul 1, 2023 at 10:36
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    @learner To be clear, when I said I agree with the other two answers, the main ideas to take away from them are: (1) When the editor says "macros" they mean any time you use "\newcommand, \renewcommand, \providecommand or \def. (You should probably not be using the last at all.)". (2) "It certainly doesn't mean that you should remove normal commands which actually do some work like \textit or \enquote from your manuscript." Just focus on those two points. And feel free to ask the editor what they mean.
    – Mike
    Commented Jul 1, 2023 at 13:34

As explained by Especially Lime and others, "macros" here refers to user-defined LateX commands, defined with \newcommand etc. Some people use them for convenience, to avoid repetitive typing or to make it easier to change something in one place and have it reflected throughout the file.

But if you don't know what a macro is, then most likely you haven't defined any (i.e. you never used \newcommand or the like in your file). So you may be confused as to why the editor gave this instruction. In fact, editors often have a standard set of instructions that they send to every author, regardless of what is in the manuscript. If your file doesn't define any macros, then this instruction just doesn't apply to you, and so you can ignore it.

  • Yes I agree with you. I already the paper and the editor said it is alright.
    – learner
    Commented Jul 2, 2023 at 16:46

To be blunt, if

  • the editor "asked you" as part of a long, standard form email;
  • the journal in question is published by one of the major for-profit publishers such as Springer or Elsevier; and
  • you did not do anything unusual or especially complicated in your TeX file,

then I would simply ignore the request and send your LaTeX file to the publisher. If they complain, then you can ask what they mean.

As Adam Phenosil says in his answer, "it's just a matter of making work easier for the production team." The publishing industry makes considerable profits selling our own research back to us. Although opinions may differ, my personal belief is that we do not have an obligation to do extra work ourselves to make their work easier.

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