This is a brief introduction to LaTeX – for dummies like myself!

So……What’s LaTeX?

LaTeX (/ltɛk/) is a typesetting language widely used in academia. If this is the first time you have ever heard of LaTeX, you might want to have a look at this. Or this for a quicker read. You know what, just google it.

Why choose LaTeX over Word?
  • It is content-oriented: you worry about the writing, let LaTeX handle the layout
  • It produces highly structured documents
  • It makes referencing and outputting bibliography so much easier
  • Scientists appreciate the subtle beauty of LaTeX: typography
  • It’s free!
TeX Editors: ShareLaTeX, TeXmaker, Atom, Sublime Text

If you are new to LaTeX and need to get some work done soon but has absolutely no idea where to start, I recommend ShareLaTeX, an online platform for LaTeX newbies because:

  • There lots of free templates and comprehensive guidelines available
  • It has pretty a user-friendly interface, and compiling takes only seconds
  • There’s o need to download any TeX distribution or editor
  • Absolutely no prior experience needed

BUT – it comes with a few pitfalls:

  • You cannot work on your document without the internet
  • There are just too many commands to remember (especially for mathematical symbols)
  • Potential issues with copyright and privacy

For these reasons, I eventually moved all my documents offline. There are three editors that I regularly use for typesetting stuff in LaTeX: TeXmaker, Atom, Sublime Text. Other popular editors include TeXShop, TeXstudio, TeXworks, and LyX. Here’s a comparison of TeX editors.

As a beginner, I find TeXmaker pretty handy, especially because its interface provides a clear structure of your tex file, allows you to view the pdf file alongside the tex script, and has quick access to mathematical/logical symbols that we semanticists always need. It works perfectly on Linus, Mac OS X, and Windows systems. Since I’m using a MacBook, I got the MacTeX Distribution and it pretty much has everything I need.


A few things to note:

  • Configuring the TeXmaker editor
  • APA style for linguistics: there are several ways to do APA style referencing in LaTeX, but it seems like Biblatex + Biber + Babel is the closest approximation as far as I know. To do this in TeXmaker, go to Preference -> Commands, then reset the value of Bib(la)tex to “biber” % before including the following in your preamble:
    \usepackage[style=apa,sortcites=true, sorting=nyt, citestyle=apa, backend=biber]{biblatex}

As you become more proficient in LaTeX, you might want to use an editor that looks neater (less is more!). If that’s the case, then perhaps Atom and Sublime Text will be more to your liking. There are countless online tutorials that can tell/show you how to get LaTeX to work on these editors – it takes a bit of configuration since neither is specifically made for LaTeX, but it’s really quite straightforward. Normally I use these two editors for typesetting fairly short documents, e.g. CV and resume. Plus you can get everything color-coded which is kinda cute!


LaTeX for Linguists
Common questions and suggestive solutions
Websites for general resources