I have been told by our head of department, a veteran academic with a lot of publications behind his name, that I am not allowed to write my masters dissertation with TeX/LaTeX, as many journals do not accept TeX/LaTeX documents, and now I have to use Word. I work in thermoflow research.

I can almost not believe that journals would prefer Word over TeX/LaTeX, or is this in actual fact true?

I would appreciate answers from people actually working in academic publishing.

  • 7
    Also, when you say TeX, do you also mean LaTeX, etc.?
    – JRN
    Jun 5, 2014 at 7:28
  • 21
    How is the tool used to write your MSc thesis related to the file formats supported by journals? No matter which format you use, you cannot just take your MSc thesis and submit it to a journal... Jun 5, 2014 at 8:53
  • 20
    Yes, journals that only accept MS Word manuscripts do exist (sadly). However, for me this is more a reason to not submit there than to change the format of my text.
    – xLeitix
    Jun 5, 2014 at 9:41
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    @seteropere: It appears that in some fields, your advice reduces to "do not submit to journals." Jun 5, 2014 at 15:40
  • 8
    Write it in LaTeX, convert individual pages to high-res images and include them in the Word file. Problem solved.
    – Raphael
    Jun 5, 2014 at 15:40

8 Answers 8


The answer is that in some fields (La)TeX dominate whereas in other fields (La)TeX is largely unknown. Obviously any field where equations are required is more likely to be using (La)TeX for writing and publishing. However, it is not uncommon that journals, or rather, type-setters of journals, use LaTeX for final production regardless of submitted format. The same applies to book publishers. But, the fact is that the use varies and one needs to check with the journal to which you wish to submit.

The fact that you are not "allowed" to write your thesis with (la)TeX is perhaps because your advisor does not use it. I am an avid LaTeX user and am struggling to convince both colleagues and students in my department to at least try using it so I know how difficult it can be. In the end, I need to use both to be able to communicate with my colleagues and peers. So although I do not see why you should not set the thesis in (La)TeX in the end, you probably need to use word for the manuscript so that your advisor can provide input on files you supply. But, check how many journals actually use LaTeX in your field and strike up a discussion with your fellow students and your advisor. I think it is worthwhile to be fairly fluent in using many tools.

Edit: I will just add that I was convinced by a friend to use TeX (not LaTeX, it was a long time ago) when I wrote my thesis (a monograph at a US university) while almost no-one in the department used TeX; but then my advisor always provided feedback from double-spaced printouts which were platform independent. Those were the days.

  • 1
    @Peter consider Org Mode if you use emacs. It exports to LaTeX and ODT (Word). Makes it easier to collaborate with others.
    – mankoff
    Jun 5, 2014 at 10:13

There are many journals that do not accept, or actively discourage LaTeX-based submissions. I've always found the assumption in LaTeX heavy fields that it's ubiquitous to be an interesting quirk.

For example, two journals that will accept LaTeX based submissions, but would rather you not:

American Journal of Epidemiology:

Prepare your manuscript, including tables, using a word processing program and save it as a .doc, .rtf or .ps file. All files in these formats will be converted to .pdf format upon submission. Please note: This journal does not accept Microsoft Word 2007 documents at this time. Please use Word's "Save As" option to save your document as an older (.doc) file type.

On LaTeX:

Prepare any other files that are to be submitted for review, including any supplementary material. The permitted formats for these files are the same as for manuscripts and figures. Other file types, such as Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and Powerpoint presentations may be uploaded and will be converted to .pdf format. It is also possible to upload LaTeX files but these will not be automatically converted to .pdf format (and are therefore discouraged). The journal staff, editors and reviewers will only be able to view these unconverted files if they have the appropriate software, which cannot be guaranteed.


Manuscripts should be in a standard word processing format. We prefer Microsoft Word but we can also use RTF, TXT, LaTeX2e, and AMSTex. Application software programs released before 2001 are not supported.

The New England Journal of Medicine actively doesn't accept them, at least not unless converted to a PDF:

All text, references, figure legends, and tables should be in one double-spaced electronic document (preferably a Word Doc). You may either insert figures in the text file or upload your figures separately. We prefer the former, but this may not work well for complicated graphics, which should be sent separately. It is permissible to send low-resolution images for peer review, although we may ask for high-resolution files at a later stage.

Legends for all figures should be included in the file with the text and should not appear on the figures.

Our preferred file type for new manuscript submissions is a Word or text document with all figures in the same document. We will also accept Adobe Acrobat portable document format (.pdf) , WordPerfect (.wpd), text (.txt) documents, or .rtf file format.

Clinical Infectious Diseases doesn't even want your PDFs:

The preferred format for submitting manuscripts online is Microsoft Word (.doc files). PDF files are not acceptable for submission.

These are all very good journals in my field - a happy, healty, high-impact, tenure friendly career could very easily be had never touching LaTeX.

  • 7
    While I agree with what you said, I’ve also always found it a very strange quirk that a lot of people assume everyone has access to (or would even consider using) Word. (Or that people think “TeX” meant Knuth’s macro package “plain TeX,” not just “anything from the plain TeX-LaTeX-ConTeXt-etc. family.” But that’s a different topic.) Jun 6, 2014 at 21:32
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    It's still a truth that everyone has access to Word, thanks to the penetration of Microsoft on the desktop and Word being the default standard of word processing. If you run Mac or Linux, your word processing software will convert to Word doc. I'm using Linux, my supervisor Mac and a collaborator Windows, and we all inter-operate using Word doc via our respective software.
    – user479
    Jun 7, 2014 at 2:41
  • Sometimes the statements on the website are actually inaccurate. I once submitted to a journal which (according) to the website only accepted .doc, but the submission system allowed me to upload .tex files and nobody complained.
    – cheersmate
    Jul 31, 2020 at 10:23

Yes, journals that do not accept LaTeX do exist. If LaTeX is not widely used in your field you might have surprises even with those journals that claim to accept it, since they in fact almost never have to. I recently submitted a manuscript in LaTeX to a Taylor & Francis journal which stated it did accept LaTeX submissions, only to find my piece "unsubmitted" the next day with a request to re-submit in Word.

  • 2
    Weird. Every journal I've ever submitted to accepted only PDF (or back in the mists of time, paper).
    – JeffE
    Jun 5, 2014 at 11:40
  • 2
    Although I love LaTeX, I'm in a similar field to Fomite, so am very envious of you all in the equation sciences. If only they would accept pdf....
    – L Platts
    Jun 5, 2014 at 15:34
  • I am very much in the equation sciences and cannot use LaTeX. Very frustrating.
    – Jonny
    Jun 5, 2014 at 19:06
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    @Michael_K Have a look at the MathType add-on if you need to use Word.
    – Mad Jack
    Jun 6, 2014 at 2:58
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    @user11192: I'm sure most such people do use MathType. That doesn't make up for the fact that Word is a very unpleasant environment to use for creation of large and complicated technical documents, particularly those with lots of equations (and did I mention there's incompatibilities between Word/MathType for Windows and Word/MathType for Mac?).
    – aeismail
    Jun 6, 2014 at 4:35

Out of my ~12 publications (spanning statistics, and applications of statistics in economics, psychology, sociology), I vividly recall at least two being rewritten in the publishing house from LaTeX into Word, with an innumerable typos, mistakes, etc. that I had to weed out comparing their proofs to my beautiful PDFs. There may have been more than two that were retyped into something else, actually, but these two were obvious downgrades.


As many mentioned already, yes, there are journals that would not take LaTeX submissions. Even if they take PDF submissions, they will sometimes redo the type-setting and create ugly final equations and texts (e.g. Journal of Neuroscience).

However, that should not be the reason to not use LaTeX. You can always convert it to RTF or DOC format. latex2rtf -M12 usually does the trick (there are other solutions, too). It converts equations to bitmap (png) images, so they can't edit the equations, but the text is editable. If your advisor wants to give you feedback using 'Track changes' in MS word, that's great. It's usually much better than directly getting the modified TeX file, actually. So you get the best of both worlds: beautiful typesetting of the final product, and easy to track text changes.

TL;DR: use LaTex and convert to other formats if needed.

  • 2
    Commenting / editing LaTeX can be greatly simplified and streamlined with the use of revision control tools. This is what any serious researcher need to learn and use, anyway.
    – StasK
    Jun 6, 2014 at 14:20
  • @StasK Yes, of course. I use git these days. Using the right diff-tool is the key there. It also has the advantage of supporting simultaneous merging and log. Still, git is much more difficult to use than 'track changes'.
    – Memming
    Jun 6, 2014 at 21:37
  • @Memming I tried latex2rtf but am not to impressed with the results. First it just cleared the .tex file I tested it on, at least I didn't need the contents anymore, and when I finally got it to work the results were average at best. I have to say I didn't really play with the settings of the program, maybe that is necessary to get good output?
    – Jonny
    Jun 7, 2014 at 6:19
  • @Michael_K it is just a script so the output often needs further clean up, and sometimes preprocessing. It does a pretty good job considering what it is trying to do. An alternative could be to use pandoc but I haven't tried it personally. The focus is to get good PDF and editability using Word if nessesary; not a perfect Word document.
    – Memming
    Jun 8, 2014 at 8:25
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    Thank you @Memming, I agree. The final version of the document will be typeset with LaTeX anyway, the latex2rtf will basically just be to see 'track changes'. Thanks.
    – Jonny
    Jun 8, 2014 at 12:25

I've worked in journal publishing (for a large STEM publisher, a large STEM printer, and now a scientific association) for almost 25 years, and LaTeX is always a problem. Typesetters have standardized around Word because there are literally millions of users, possibly a billion. But standardizing around Word means that there are going to be problems with any non-Word submissions. In most cases, TeX manuscripts will be converted to Word, either through some automated means or through double-keying (i.e., two poorly paid people in the Pacific rim will rekey the manuscript; the two versions are merged because it's unlikely—though not impossible—that they will make the same mistakes). Also keep in mind that there are more manuscripts that do not contain math than do, so the publisher, again, is not going to standardize around a niche.

However, in reading the above answers, I note the common expression of how beautiful and pleasing the final TeX product is. Here's the problem: if you want to be published, the manuscript is not the final product. Think about it from a journal publisher's point of view: They want their final product to be beautiful, too, subjective as that may be, and there is some beauty in uniformity.

Once your article has been accepted for publication, it is in many senses no longer your article. There are certain things over which you no longer have any say, such as typefaces, whether a serial (Oxford) comma is used, or whether hyphens are used in compound adjectives (which is a surprising point of contention for authors).

TL;DR: The publisher has found the easiest path to get to its desired result; even if you insist on deviating from the path, the product will be the same, and you and everyone else will be frustrated along the way.

  • I believe there are literally millions of LaTeX users as well, but I agree with your point that the number is likely dwarfed by the number of Word users. According to Microsoft, there's at least 1.2 billion MS Office users, so a billion Word users is probably not far off the mark actually.
    – Anyon
    Jan 14, 2019 at 19:17
  • I wonder how a typesetter fixes the fonts of all the equations in a word document. Latex is designed to be flexible. If a publisher wants to change how some font is to be used, they just need to use the right document class, that's it. I would say the publishers are foolishly clinging to a technology that is not designed to do the job. Jul 29, 2020 at 15:12
  • user2833557: What do you mean by "fixes"? Also, it's highly likely that the publisher knows more about their processes than you (or I) do, so perhaps your suggestion just doesn't work as you think it will on the path from from the desktop to high-end printing presses. Oct 13, 2020 at 15:40

This sounds like a minor miscommunication. Your mentor is correct in that many publications do not accept TeX documents, but you do not (usually) submit the latex version of your document in the first place. You compile it to produce a PDF which is what you submit. The publications that want to edit your PDF will normally have the tools to convert from PDF to word or whatever other format they work with.

  • Interesting fact is that I didnt even get this from my study leader ! But from the head of department, and he basically told me that I have to write up in Word!
    – Jonny
    Jun 5, 2014 at 19:11
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    "You compile it to produce a PDF which is what you submit." This varies by field. Submission of TeX source is routine in astronomy and physics. aas.org/authors/… journals.aps.org/authors/…
    – coneslayer
    Jun 6, 2014 at 1:31
  • @coneslayer: Indeed, in my experience (math), journals that are typeset with LaTeX (in math, all of them) typically require that authors submit LaTeX source if possible. If you were to submit only the PDF, the process of converting it back to LaTeX would be unnecessarily time-consuming and error-prone. Jun 7, 2014 at 2:41
  • That is my point, any publication can accept PDF and convert to the format they prefer. It is often the second choice, but it is always possible.
    – Paul Smith
    Jun 9, 2014 at 10:05
  • @PaulSmith it may be possible, but that doesn't mean they will do it. There are plenty of publications out there that require sumissions in Word format, and plenty of others that require LaTeX.
    – Flyto
    Jan 15, 2019 at 11:07

I wrote some books in LaTeX and another one with Word. I lose plenty of time with Word and I don't like to renew this experience. In october I'll give a course about LaTeX for an association in amateur radio with Smith diagrams examples. I'm not sure I could draw them easily with Word. For the moment publications in this amateur radio association are made with Word; some people in this association know the LaTeX name and its potential but they haven't yet the level required to use it. In my experience some Editors don't like LaTeX because they haven't internal knowledges but undoubtly they are frightened with its tremendous potential.

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