Sometimes a paper consists of lots of math equations which are too long so that they will look terrible in a two-column format. I was wondering:

Is is possible or even reasonable to ask the editor of a two-column journal to publish the whole paper in one column format due to containing lots of long equations?

  • 7
    Use a full-width figure? Commented Nov 23, 2017 at 16:15
  • @StuartGolodetz: I know that but there will be lots of these which will make it looking really bad! Commented Nov 23, 2017 at 16:24
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    Yes, with many long equations it is not uncommon to finds a good part of a page, or a full page, typeset as one column. If it is just one long equation they do an (ugly to me) splitting of the columns above and below the long equation. This is from my experience reading physics journals.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Nov 23, 2017 at 16:31
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    Is it impossible for you to break the equations into multiple lines? Depending on the number of such equations it might make the paper too long for the journal’s constraints, but if it’s workable I often find that multi line equations are much more readable and aesthetically pleasing than one-line monsters.
    – Dennis
    Commented Nov 24, 2017 at 2:20
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    @StuartGolodetz No, please (I mean, no to typesetting formulas as figures. Much better is to choose a journal which is less stupid than not to allow reasonable solutions.
    – yo'
    Commented Nov 24, 2017 at 13:03

2 Answers 2


Yes, you can ask, but you will almost certainly be turned down for such a request, because journals do not normally keep separate templates for single-column layouts. Moreover, at the type used by journals, a two-column format is essential because long lines of text are difficult to process. (Readability studies show that about 65 to 70 characters per line works best.)

That said, many journals do have to deal with long equations, and in such cases they will have equations that cut across both columns, and indicate how the text "flows" around the equation. As Jon Custer's comments indicate, if there are enough such equations in a row, the page in question may be set in a single-column format, before reverting back to two-column format after the "run" of equations is broken up.

As an example of how this looks, here's a page from a paper published in Physical Review D:

enter image description here

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    Thanks for your attention. It really looks ugly! :D Doesn't it? Commented Nov 23, 2017 at 22:23
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    Yeah it looks pretty ugly. And I always found the two column format very hard to process because I have to scroll up and down like an idiot. Commented Nov 23, 2017 at 23:00
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    It's not great, but given the column width, it still looks better than a single column would.
    – aeismail
    Commented Nov 24, 2017 at 0:28

Some do, some don't. It depends on the journal in question. For example, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society state in their instructions:

6.1 Layout

Papers should be formatted with two columns (except the abstract) and single line spaced. A single column layout may be used only if necessary for the display of numerous very long equations. The journal is printed on A4-sized paper.

One should always refer to the author instructions/guidelines and can usually contact the editor to ask for further information if something is not stated or is unclear.

  • I think that the instructions mentioned here is just for the equations and not the whole paper and the output would look like the one mentioned in aeismail's answer. right? Commented Nov 24, 2017 at 9:51

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