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And Now for Something Completely Different: How to Fake LaTeX When Writing Academic Papers

Thought it would be a good idea to lead with something on the lighter side today. I wrote an article that was published back in 2019 called, “Writing Papers in Economics Using FaKe LaTeX.” It was not a hoax! Academics are like everyone else and have ways of signaling who is an insider and who is an outsider. If you like, who is part of the cool kids club and who is not. Over the last decade or so something called LaTeK became the dominant software platform for writing papers in economics. As usual, this spilled over from the physical sciences, particularly math and physics. Lots of “physics envy” in economics. It is a laughably hard way of writing papers in my personal opinion. Yes it looks pretty and it makes writing out math maybe easier, but it is costly to learn and use compared to something like Microsoft Word.

I hated working with my grad students who began to do their papers in LaTeX. Completely incompatible with Word. So, my contrarian streak kicked in. I don’t know where it comes from, maybe my farm upbringing in Iowa. But it is definitely there. So I began digging around and discovered some underground efforts to fake LaTeK using Word. I quickly discovered it was not that hard and produced an example paper myself. I showed it to some colleagues and grad students and they were astonished. It was a very good fake! Based on their reactions I thought, why not share with everyone else in economics how to fake LaTeK and save people a lot of time and hassle. This is the paper and somehow the Journal of Economic Surveys actually published it.

Reaction to the paper during the review process and after has been completely tribal. The LaTeK tribe hates how I have debased their creations. I have received many emails from the Word tribe thanking me for showing how to fake it. Hope you read it for some fun if nothing else.

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