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If there is an option to submit your paper in either Latex or Word, which format should be given preference? Does it affect the chances of acceptance? My paper relates to computer science & engineering, with a few mathematical formula, diagrams, and tables.

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    This is very field-dependent. Many non-STEM publishers don't even accept LaTeX manuscripts (unfortunately). – henning -- reinstate Monica Aug 9 '17 at 13:20
  • @henning in (organic/synthetic) chemistry many journals don't accept it either. And I agree with them here since it's even more work to write the drafts in LaTeX than in word and they do the formatting anyways. – DSVA Aug 9 '17 at 20:21
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If both are allowed then both will be fine. I would choose the one I am most comfortable with. Using a program you are less familiar with increases the chance of making a silly error. Such errors are much more likely to work against you than the choice between Word or LaTeX.

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    If both are allowed then both will be fine. I disagree. It is also allowed to submit a poorly written or poorly formatted paper, but that does not mean that all papers have equal chances of being accepted regardless of how they look. Considering that LaTeX and Word produce very different looking documents, saying "both will be fine" does not sound like very helpful advice. – Dan Romik Jan 4 '17 at 23:57
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    @DanRomik In my field (sociology) papers are primarily judged on their content rather than their looks. Not because sociologist are superior human beings, but because most journals put quite some requirements on the submitted paper (double spaced, graphs and tables placed at the end of the document), which makes all papers look pretty ugly, regardless of what program was used to create it. You can still make errors, as you mentioned, and that will work against you, but the best way to prevent errors (in the short term) is to use the program you are most comfortable with. – Maarten Buis Jan 5 '17 at 9:31
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    I very much agree that the answer will depend strongly on the field (which is why I asked OP to specify the field, and refrained from writing an answer myself since OP has so far not provided that information). My experience is that there are even fields where many people are so used to Word documents that (to my amazement) they consider them superior to LaTeX-prepared documents. – Dan Romik Jan 5 '17 at 12:11
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This is coming from a more engineering, physics and mathematics point of view. In many sub-area of these fields, LaTeX papers have a more distinct professional feel. This is mostly related to the formatting of the equations and the symbols. Furthermore, numerous authors in mathematics are openly LaTeX advocate. As such, I believe (but this is no hard fact) that you might get a slightly more positive bias using LaTeX than Word. Keep in mind that the most important part is to submit a clear well-written document and that the format is second to this former fact.

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    you might get a slightly more positive bias using LaTeX than Word If it's true, don't you think that's an issue? – Cape Code Jan 9 '17 at 8:36
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    I do not believe this is an issue. Allow me to explain. I believe LaTeX produces a much better typesetting and formatting of equations than Word. It makes the equation much more readable, better formatted, more structured. For the same reason you could prefer a paper to another because the figures were presented in a much better fashion, I believe you can be slightly biased toward a paper due to its good use of LaTeX formatting. When I see a poorly made Excel graph in a paper compared to a perfect matplotlib graph, I get a negative bias for the excel paper. Same for LaTeX and Word... – BlaB Jan 9 '17 at 13:06
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    Do you find it equally unproblematic that I view LaTeX formatted papers in my field as likely coming from the Math/Physics/CS world whose decided to apply their field's tools to my field's problems - usually with an incomplete understanding of the state of the field, the context of the problem, and most of the complexities involved? Or does this clearly apply to the "prettiness" of a well-laid-out LaTeX document? – Fomite Aug 10 '17 at 2:17
  • To me it is only a matter of equations and symbols being better formatted. I would not feel the difference between a well written word paper using MathType for instance and the same paper written using LaTeX. – BlaB Aug 10 '17 at 13:29
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Let's start by acknowledging that there is a very good reason why LaTeX is the standard system for writing papers across all of math and large parts of computer science, physics, statistics, and other technical areas. No one has yet come up with a system that produces better-looking, more esthetically pleasing, well formatted documents that do as effective a job of communicating complex technical ideas, especially those involving lots of mathematical symbols and formulas. By contrast, documents generated by Microsoft Word are generally... meh (and if they contain math formulas... double meh).

With that said, I believe that the answer to your question is: yes, LaTeX papers and Word papers are far from equivalent in terms of their chances to be accepted to a computer science journal. I see several issues here, some direct and some indirect:

  1. One effect is that, as I was opining above, a properly written LaTeX paper will simply do a better job of communicating the content of your ideas to the reader than the same paper written in Word. Thus, the cognitive load on the journal editor and referees that stands between them and understanding what you are trying to say and what the contribution of your paper is will be higher with a Word paper. This will translate to a difference in the chances of acceptance (better chances for the LaTeX version).

  2. Another effect involves the fact that if you are writing a technical computer science paper in Word then it is extremely likely that you are a very inexperienced researcher, possibly from outside of academia. That by itself makes it a lot less likely that your paper is well-written (aside from which software it is written in) and that the ideas in the paper are good enough to make it worthy of accepting. And the editor and referees know that, and are likely to take the paper less seriously as a result (this is the bias alluded to in other answers, and lamented by some), subconsciously and/or consciously, even if you are in fact an experienced researcher. This would again translate to a reduced chance of acceptance for a Word paper. Perhaps this bias is unfair, but there it is.

  3. Even without the bias I mentioned above, for the reason explained in item 2 above I still predict a clear statistical correlation between the Word/LaTeX typesetting information and the quality of the paper (and therefore the chances of acceptance). This correlation of course does not imply causation; without the bias, it would not be the typesetting system that was used that caused the paper to be rejected, but the overall low quality of the paper. Nonetheless, the fact remains that by writing your paper in Word, you would be choosing to join a group of authors whose papers have a statistically lower rate of acceptance, even if your situation is somehow different than most of them.

As a final caveat, if your area of computer science has papers with very few mathematical formulas, then what I wrote above is probably still correct, but to a lesser extent, i.e., the chances of acceptance would be closer to equal, but I still predict a small advantage for LaTeX.

See here (including many relevant thoughts in the comments section) and here for related discussions.

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    Counter-example: In some aspects of what I do, "Author did some clever math but utterly misses the practical applications and scientific relevance of their question" is highly correlated with a LaTeX formatted paper. If I get a LaTeX formatted paper from an author I don't recognize, my first (and admittedly biased) feeling is "Ugh..." – Fomite Jan 9 '17 at 22:14
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    @Fomite: LOL. Reading your "ugh" comment I feel like I'm staring into a looking glass world, but at the same time your description of how pure math people think is right on the money - hilarious! – Dan Romik Jan 9 '17 at 22:36
  • I always love talking to computational/mathematical colleagues. It is a little bit like staring into a mirror universe. – Fomite Jan 9 '17 at 22:43
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    @jpou No I haven't considered it because it's not true. You can achieve similarity in superficial things like choice of font, but Word and LaTeX (more precisely, TeX) use completely different algorithms for line breaking, word spacing, line spacing, page breaking and more. TeX's algorithms are described in detail in Knuth's The TeXbook (a masterpiece of ultra-geeky writing btw). If you read it you would start to understand more in depth why TeX achieves such great results. Word simply cannot (or rather, does not attempt to) replicate this type of careful optimization in document preparation. – Dan Romik Jan 11 '17 at 12:39
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    "No one has yet come up with a system that produces better-looking, more esthetically pleasing, well formatted documents" at least in chemistry publishers do all the formatting, it just doesn't matter how the submitted manuscript looks. Some even require you to submit in one column, double line spacing for the review while the papers are two column with less line spacing. – DSVA Aug 9 '17 at 20:23
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The final look and feel of your paper must look like it belongs in that journal, regardless of which software you use to produce it. I will, as a reviewer, subconsciously bias towards a reject if I find that the paper looks amateurish. This means it is an uphill climb to change my recommendation to an accept.

  • I think this is probably accurate in many fields (although I really wish it wasn't). – ff524 Jan 4 '17 at 23:29
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    OP is talking about the version submitted for review, how is the look relevant? The journal will edit the typesetting before publication anyway. – Cape Code Jan 9 '17 at 8:37
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    @Cape Code most papers in my area are submitted in the format of the final version. Personally, I hate papers that look like an undergraduate report. So 'look and feel' can be interpreted as a paper written by a professional either using MS Word or LaTeX. – Prof. Santa Claus Jan 9 '17 at 9:11
  • @Prof.SantaClaus what other things completely unrelated to the content do you hate in papers you review? – Cape Code Jan 9 '17 at 11:36
  • I agree that having a professional look and feel consistent with journal and discipline expectations is important. I just note that in other fields (e.g., psychology and APA style). This look and feel is more about conformity to a style manual (e.g., double spacing, consistent paragraph formatting, headings consistent with styles, etc.). Word processors can sometimes make it easier to conform to these idiosyncratic requirements. – Jeromy Anglim Jan 12 '17 at 0:36
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If you are comfortable using Latex (i.e. it won't slow you down to use it), and it is well-supported by the journal (i.e. they provide a style file), I would recommend it, as it produces a paper that is much easier for the referees to understand. Reducing any barrier to referee understanding is great!

But just because a journal accepts both Latex and Word, doesn't mean there isn't an internal preference. Sometimes you have to dig a little bit to find this. Look at the publishing details: some journals will waive part of the publication fees if you give them a Latex file; others state they will take longer to move from acceptance to publishing with Latex than Word.

Personally, I think that the advantages of Latex in terms of appearance and bibliography-handling are large enough that I put up with its other annoyances, and use it whenever possible.

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    I think "it produces a paper that is much easier for the referees to understand" is something of an unsubstantiated claim. I've received well-formated, clear manuscripts in either format, and unintelligible garbage in both formats. – Fomite Jan 9 '17 at 22:12
  • Fair point, but does not match my experience. This is probably half selection bias, but I have never seen a truly hideously formatted LaTeX submission in my field (where there are standard templates for many journals, which everyone uses). Meanwhile, even very respected groups have sent me Word-prepared docs that are just awful (figures in random locations, separated from captions, etc.) – AJK Jan 10 '17 at 1:03
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No. Following submission instructions found in "Instructions to Authors", whatever they may say, will pretty much insure that your paper gets reviewed, and not whatever the digital equivalent of "returned unread" is, but reviewers generally see a pdf, and couldn't care less how you wrote the paper. They will care if you gave the manuscript the attention it merits, regardless of the tools you use to prepare it.

As an aside, when you choose to work in Latex, you need to think about how that interacts with any collaborators who will need to edit and mark up your documents. It's certainly not undoable to work with Latex nonusers, but it does require thought and planning.

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Note: this answer comes from someone who does not review computer science articles. There seem to be a strong belief in your field that using LaTeX is The Way to go. I would suggest to comply for your career's sake. My answer still applies to other fields.


I truly hope it doesn't. It would be extremely unprofessional for reviewers and editors to favor their pet typesetting tool when assessing the content of a paper. Especially knowing that in many cases, the paper will be re-written from scratch by the typesetter and thus it becomes irrelevant.

But possibly, writing papers with LaTeX might reduce your research output, and thus the quality or number of the papers you submit since it's been observed* that using LaTeX is less efficient than MS Word to write academic papers (with the exception of a small subset of fields).

So, unless your document is made mostly of equations, data suggests you will make fewer errors and spend less time writing your paper using MS Word than LaTeX.

*See: Markus Knauff, Jelica Nejasmic (2014) An Efficiency Comparison of Document Preparation Systems Used in Academic Research and Development PLOSONE

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    If only people would stop uncritically linking to that paper. Their conclusion is in no way supported by their study (unless you are in a field where you do a lot of retyping text written by others). – Tobias Kildetoft Jan 7 '17 at 9:23
  • @TobiasKildetoft The retyping is to be able to standardize the task. I find it to be an appropriate proxy for writing, in absence of something better. I will amend my answer if new experimental data weakens their conclusions. – Cape Code Jan 7 '17 at 21:17
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    How is something being hard to test properly an argument for drawing conclusions based on something only vaguely related? The only conclusion one can draw from that study is that we still have no idea if LaTeX is worth it for people outside a few fields, not that it is not worth it (I mean, the study even barely disguised its accusations that everyone who uses LaTeX is irrational). – Tobias Kildetoft Jan 7 '17 at 21:24
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    @TobiasKildetoft I think we have a pretty clear idea that using LaTeX for documents with mostly text is a big waste of time. Especially since in many fields, the typesetting is redone by the journal anyway. – Cape Code Jan 9 '17 at 8:39
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    I am not sure who "we" are (I certainly have no idea), and I also don't know how "we" have this idea. – Tobias Kildetoft Jan 9 '17 at 11:08
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The area is computer science & engineering with few mathematical formula, diagrams, and tables

You need to use Latex. Full stop.

Even when you don't know Latex, you are supposed to learn basic math formula, figures, tables in less than a day. (Tables are pieces of cake with this online tool http://www.tablesgenerator.com/)

I never heard of anybody in Computer Science that does not know Latex. Call me a jerk and down vote if you like, but such a person will become a topic of a joke.

If one can't prepare a document in Latex, how can (s)he do any programming? And if they can't do programming, I can't take their Computer Science research very serious.


UPDATE:

Everybody is talking about how Latex produces beautiful math equations etc, and forget how it is efficient even on basic tasks. I was once a Word user. In fact, I wrote my undergraduate thesis using Word 2003, and it was a painful experience, even though I didn't have any math equation in my thesis.

  • Creating a Reference section, and citing a paper in Word is painful, and time consuming.
  • Changing reference format from John Smith to J. SMITH (ACM style) is also painful, and it can take you days. Changing the citation from (Smith 2003) to [1] is also painful.
  • Referring to a figure is also painful.
  • Formatting (pseud-do) code is also painful.
  • Keeping the format Heading1, Heading2 etc is really painful.

The list does not end here. All of these are pieces of cakes in Latex, and the most important thing is it gives you the feeling of total control of your text.

But possibly, writing papers with LaTeX might reduce your research output, and thus the quality or number of the papers you submit since it's been observed* that using LaTeX is less efficient than MS Word to write academic papers (with the exception of a small subset of fields)

I don't care if anybody/paper says preparing documents in Word is more efficient. It's like saying typing with two fingers are faster than typing with 10 fingers. It is true for some people, but it will become a joke for many people.

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    Why would you assume people who don't use LaTeX are those who "don't know LaTeX" or "can't prepare a document in LaTeX"? – Cape Code Jan 9 '17 at 10:00
  • @CapeCode I am agree with you. If a computer scientist does not use LaTeX, it doesn't mean that (s)he can't learn it. – user3606704 Jan 9 '17 at 11:18
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    And if they can't do programming, I can't take their Computer Science research very serious. WHAT?????? – Dan Romik Jan 9 '17 at 11:46
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    Scott Aaronson, in his blog at scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=304, agrees with your general advice to use TeX; he lists non-use of TeX as the first in his list of "Ten signs a claimed mathematical breakthrough is wrong". But in that context he also mentions two respected computer scientists who don't (or didn't at that time) use TeX: David Deutsch and Lov Grover – Andreas Blass Jan 9 '17 at 16:26
  • @AndreasBlass note that I linked to that same page (and another slightly relevant one) at the bottom of my answer. – Dan Romik Jan 9 '17 at 17:37

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