Should I write my dissertation in LaTeX?

I wrote my dissertation in LaTeX, and I am glad to have done so!  (See my links page for some useful LaTeX guides.) However, when a PhD student asked me a couple of years ago whether I would recommend it, I didn’t feel comfortable giving an unattenuated yes/no answer. If you are thinking about writing your linguistics dissertation in LaTeX, here are some things to consider:


  • LaTeX typesetting will give you a strikingly elegant, well-designed, easy-to-read document.
  • Section and example numbering and cross-referencing are simple, sturdy, and difficult to break, even if you do a lot of rearranging off your text. If example (234) becomes example (3), all of the references to that example will be automatically updated, and you won’t have to renumber examples (4)–(233) or deal with ERROR! messages. I imagine that word-processing programs are improving these features across time, but I haven’t found anything that rivals LaTeX’s reliability and ease. I cannot overemphasise this benefit.
  • For subdisciplines that require special formatting (syntax trees, formal semantics), LaTeX may be one of the only ways of formatting more complex objects without breaking the document, or your head.
  • You will gain a useful skill that you will be able to reuse in many different contexts.


  • There is a moderately steep learning curve, although some semi-WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editors are available.
  • You will spend more time up front coding your formatting, troubleshooting your code, figuring out how to accomplish specific tasks, and learning new packages. In my experience, this time more than pays for itself in the time saved when word-processing files get corrupted, but it’s something to keep in mind.
  • Collaborations can be more challenging in some circumstances.
  • Not all journals accept LaTeX submissions, which can mean a lot of retyping and re-formatting if you submit portions of your dissertation. (The forced rethinking this causes may be a positive side-effect!) On the other hand, some journals and publishers welcome or even require LaTeX submissions.