LaTeX for Editors: My Attempt

Last year I joined the Canberra Society of Editors, CSE. Since I am not a professional editor (though I have acted in the role for a few publications) and I have no formal qualifications, I joined as an Associate Member. When I signed up the webform asked me what I might contribute to the society. I mentioned the things I knew something about, and newsletter editor Farid Rahimi came back suggesting that a message to the society newsgroup asking whether people would like to be introduced to LaTeX might be worthwhile. We sent the message, got a handful of responses, and, well…I wrote an article.  It is here, the June 2015 issue.

A random extract from the article.

A lousy, low-res, random extract from the example document accompanying the article.  I rather like Computer Concrete as a font, though it does not look great here since the screen grab was, well, only a screen grab.

Writing an article for a magazine whose readership consists entirely of people who specialise in finding errors in written English is scary. In the end I just had to forget about the audience, write it for a general reader, and then check it over fairly carefully.  Fairly…

I decided that the topic was so wide that the best approach was to outline LaTeX’s main capabilities—logical mark-up, defining your own commands, cross referencing, good default text flow—then focus on LaTeX’s strengths and weaknesses as they pertain to editing. The change tracking facilities of modern WYSIWYG programs, most obviously Word, are very widely used tools—many modern editing textbooks have whole chapters walking the reader through the use of Word’s reviewing tools. Grammar checkers are also an issue. Equivalents to both of these tools can be found in the LaTeX universe, but they do not operate in familiar ways or provide like-for-like functionality. These things are real issues for editors.

In order to cover the ground I felt was important, yet not occupy the whole newsletter for several issues, I broke the content into two parts, a high-level review that was the actual article, and an example document that implemented many of the qualities to which I referred. The latter is available on my little download page here (, a file bundle that includes all the source files needed to compile the document, including a gnuplot script that produces a graphic included using the gnuplot-lua-tikz package, a bibliography, mathematics, inputted files, and so on.


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About Darren

I'm a scientist by training, based in Australia.

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