Fairly high on my list of "I want those hours of my life back" is time spent wrangling my LaTeX to compile correctly with the style files provided by journal publishers, and subsequently dealing with copyeditors who introduce errors while making my papers conform to "house style".

Back when the primary medium of a journal was a print publication, I suppose maybe it made some sense for all the papers in one journal to look the same. But nowadays I acquire nearly all papers electronically, and I assume the same is true for many people. Is there any good reason for journals to continue to insist on a house style?

To be clear, I certainly understand that some minimal requirements are necessary. For instance, a journal that has a print version will certainly want consistency in font, font size and margins, to ensure a fair comparison of the lengths of different papers. And I recognize that copyeditors serve a useful function in general. But I don't see why a journal needs to require that I use their custom .cls file that is (for instance) incompatible with standard packages like amsthm, numbers equations as (1) (2) (3) rather than the more useful (1.3) (3.2) (5.3), or requires enumerated lists to be labeled 1.2.3 instead of (i)(ii)(iii).

I recognize that this sounds like a rant. But I really intend it as an honest question. I can think of at least three possible kinds of answer:

  1. There is a good reason that I'm unaware of.
  2. There is a bad reason that I'm unaware of (e.g. somehow it makes the publishers more money).
  3. It's just inertia, leftover from older days of print journals.

I would really like to know which of those is the case, and if (1) or (2) then what the reason is.

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    I would be scared to leave the style up to the authors. Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 15:35
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    The same reasons uniforms and standards are used. Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 16:16
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    Two comments: (1) Are you sure that wrangling with the LaTeX is necessary? Publishers "encourage" it on their website, but (in math anyway) usually you can decline and then their employees will do it. Considering that they charge money for their journals, I believe that it is perfectly ethical to leave this work to them.
    – Anonymous
    Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 18:29
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    I suspect that one reason is that it makes it look like the publisher is contributing something beyond web hosting.
    – Thomas
    Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 21:42
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    I find this question surprising. I don't think I have had to actually have anything to do with the journals style so far in publishing papers. They ask for a .pdf for review and then for the .tex file when it is time to publish. Then they have a copyeditor apply their style using the .tex file and then you point out those places where the copyeditor introduced mistakes (also, my experience with copyeditors has not been nearly as bad as yours, mainly having to point out places where the math break lines). Commented Jul 14, 2017 at 7:34

1 Answer 1


There are several reasons:

  1. Publishers want their papers distinguishable. Everyone1 knows Elsevier by the logo and font.

  2. Consistency itself is a good goal, to an extent.

  3. It means you easier meet certain quality standards. (If I could, I would show you things people submitted as final versions for publication.)

  4. I'm afraid that if you let people do what they wish, it would be seriously disasterous. (I speak from a Copy Editor/Typesetter experience.)

  5. I would not call it inertia, from my point of view, journals are typography and typography is art, and art should be done artfully, no matter we live in a crazy fast-cooked world.

Last but not least, note that AMS does not require you to comply with everything, I published a paper where some enumerations are numeral and some are alphabetic.


  • 1
    Well, I'm not one of your "everyone". I generally barely even notice what journal a paper is published in. And I don't see an intrinsic value in consistency, especially when the consistency is only across a bunch of papers with nothing in common except that they happened to get published in the same journal. Can you explain in what way requirements like "enumerated lists must be 1.2.3." make it easier to meet quality standards or avoid disasterous results? Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 21:16
  • For "not being everyone", well, you are not, many are. Like with any brand, many people recognize it by the logo and style, many people do not. For consistency, well, that's up to you, but it is somehow related to the quality standards. Why it is good that there is a prescription how e.g. lists or headers look like? Well, if one list is enumerated 1,2,3 and another one is enumerated a,b,c in the same paper, it would (at least in me) raise question about the significance of this: Are lists enumerated this or that way somewhat special in the article? Have I missed something?
    – yo'
    Commented Jul 14, 2017 at 18:18
  • Or imagine one section having a bold title and another one on the same level having an italic one. Again, does it mean that even though they are numbered 3. and 4., it's somewhat that 4 is actually a subsection of 3 or not? And I could continue endlessly.
    – yo'
    Commented Jul 14, 2017 at 18:19
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    I have intentionally enumerated one list 1,2,3 and another a,b,c in order to be able to refer back to individual items from both of them in the same paragraph unambiguously. Commented Jul 14, 2017 at 21:01
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    I don't see why anyone would be unhappy with it. It's just like writing the arguments of one function as f(x1,x2,x3) and another as g(y1,y2,y3) to be able to distinguish them. Requiring the arguments of all functions to be called "x" would be silly. Commented Jul 15, 2017 at 5:22

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