The Knuth will set you free

In today's From the E-Mailbag... post on News From ME, Mark continues a theme from a post from two days ago, Ask ME: Lotsa Different Stuff. He discusses writing with a computer versus writing with analog devices and includes a quote from his longtime friend, mathematician Bruce Reznick. Bruce talks about similar differences writing math papers and mentions issues with his bad handwriting.

In the mid-90's I was an undergraduate at UCLA and I supplanted my income typesetting math papers for the Journal of Symbolic Logic and the Bulletin of Symbolic Logic. My bad handwriting is what got me the job.

In my math courses everyone else turned in hand-written homework but I made the extra effort to code my homework in LaTeX and I would hand in a printout. I used examples of these to get the job.

I had a style guide that I followed and I turned in LaTeX files of the papers that followed the style. Sometimes I would get a hardcopy of a paper and I would create the file from scratch. Sometimes I would get a word processing document in one format or another and I would convert it to LaTeX. Sometimes I would get a file in TeX or LaTeX and I would put it into our style. This might sound like the easiest option (and most profitable since I got paid by the page) and it often was. However, there were several papers that I got that used custom macros so extensively that by the time I was done reverse engineering the code, I would have been better off typesetting it from scratch.