I'm a student and I write many labs, reports, letters, and fun little things. I use Latex for school because I don't have to worry about formatting, i.e, its like "programming" my paper and can scale to any type of print media (ex. books, newsletters, mailings, thesis papers).

If I were to take my writing to the next level and continue to improve my writing, would investing in Latex path be worth the time, or should I just stick with Word or some other platform?

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    This is not a question as it stands; it's a poll. Please rewrite to be an answerable question, something like "is LaTex more flexible than Word?" or "which word processing program would you use for Task X?" Otherwise I have to vote to close. Feb 2, 2012 at 20:18
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    Good point, I shall make it a question
    – Ken
    Feb 3, 2012 at 15:49
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    @nikeunltd - at the moment you need to define what "taking your writing to the next level" means to you. Is it becoming better at writing a fictional plot? Is it enhancing your grammar? Is it getting your ideas written down faster? Is it having more flexibility with publishing formats? You need to add more detail.
    – justkt
    Feb 3, 2012 at 18:59

2 Answers 2


Any text-based "markup" format -- LaTeX, HTML, various XML schemas like DocBook, etc -- will serve you better than binary formats like Word, Pages, FrameMaker, etc. (I am aware that some of these tools export XML or SGML.) The reasons include:

  • Decoupling from editors. You can use your favorite tool to edit any of these, which gives you more flexibility.

  • Conversion to other formats is probably easier and at least no worse. If you want to take your Word document and convert it to HTML for your blog, probably you're going to end up cutting and pasting and re-adding the format directives. Converting from LaTeX to HTML, on the other hand, can probably be largely scripted (hedge because I'm very rusty with LaTeX). If your document is 5 pages long maybe you don't care much; if it's 500 pages, or you're going to be doing this a lot, you do.

  • It's a better foundation for producing output for multiple platforms. Depending on what you're doing you might only need to change a style sheet to go from book-style output to newsletter-style output, for instance.

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    It is definitely possible to convert LaTeX to an assortment of other formats.
    – Vatine
    Feb 3, 2012 at 11:17
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    And if you ever get stuck with a question as to how to do something with LaTeX, there is a great site for that TeX.SE Feb 6, 2012 at 16:42
  • Primary advantage: Documents written in LaTeX always render as defined. Meanwhile, in MS Word past 60th page of fancy text with many equations, drawings, indices and heading levels, bugs start to emerge. Things are left behind on previous page that should have been moved, indices fail to update, elements of drawings don't follow the drawings moving etc. Word is good for writing small documents. If you want a book though, especially scientific book, TeX is the way.
    – SF.
    Aug 27, 2013 at 12:57
  • @SF. I think that's a fault of Word in particular and it might not be shared by other "binary-format" tools like Pages, FrameMaker (classic), etc. I wasn't trying to address specific tools so much as types; everything I (and you) said about LaTeX applies to DocBook or DITA too, for example. Aug 27, 2013 at 13:00

Depending on what you do with your writing, you may end up having to produce a Word document. For example, many academic journals take only Word format (even, in one case I am aware of, when they simply turn around and use a commercial Word-to-LaTeX converter as the first step in their page-layout process!).

If you are likely to be in a situation in the near future where Word documents will be required, you should stay familiar with it, and you may find expertise with LaTeX specifically to be less applicable than you hoped in those situations where it would be nicest to have it. Otherwise, LaTeX or another markup format will give you more flexibility (and cost less and look better).

  • It's possible to automatically transform other formats to Word. (Of course, you have to write some XSL or Perl or a stylesheet or something.) I know of cases of DocBook -> Word, for what that's worth. Feb 10, 2012 at 15:37
  • @MonicaCellio - LaTeX to Word is not as smooth as DocBook to Word in my experience. The converters I've tried do fine if the LaTeX doesn't do anything at all fancy, but produce mixed results otherwise.
    – Rex Kerr
    Feb 10, 2012 at 16:45

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