Basic arithmetic in Latex

More and more, I use Latex as scratch paper, sometimes to develop numerical (counter-)examples. I often find it much cleaner and better organized than if I rely on actual pen and paper.

Numerical examples are usually a “back and forth” kind of business, with many moving parts. You have to find the numbers that “make it work here” without “changing things there”.

So finding the right combination of numbers often requires a lot of simple (but error-prone) calculations. In that matter too, Latex can save you time and prevent mistakes.

With pen and paper, you would usually (a) write down your arithmetic (e.g., (1/3)*57 + (1/4)*23 + (5/12)*20), (b) use a calculator or spreadsheet to perform the calculation, and (c) write down the result on your sheet of paper.

There are many ways to make mistakes and loose time in that process. As often, Latex offers a solution.

Have a look at Very much like you would if you were using Markdown, Latex — with the help of a particular package — lets you,  (a) write down your arithmetic and (b) simply ask your computer to calculate the result.

The code looks something like this:


(1/3)*57 + (1/4)*23 + (5/12)*20

$(1/3)*57 + (1/4)*23 + (5/12)*20 = \result$


As illustrated in, you can easily round decimals to your liking:



$100/3 = \result$



LanguageTool : adding words

One slightly unpleasant feature of LanguageTool with Texstudio is that new words are a little harder to add to the dictionary than when using Texstudio’s native spellcheck.

The good part of having to add words through LanguageTool is that words you add are, well, actually added to the dictionary, whereas adding words to Texstudio’s native dictionary is — in my experience — unstable (I’ve had to add the same words multiple time in many occasions, in particular after updates).

For explanation on how to add words to LanguageTool’s spell check, once again see the very good documentation on LanguageTool’s website at

I will try to keep an updated list of words I added here. The list might be of some use in particular to those working in a field related to microeconomics theory.

Grammar nightmares: the road to salvation with LanguageTool

I am terrible with grammar, as you will likely observe somewhere in this post or elsewhere on my website. This is often very embarrassing. These days however, I should be able to spare myself the embarrassment given the plethora of language checking softwares.

There are two main reasons these softwares do not do the job for me:

  1.  I do most of my writing in LaTex with Texstudio, and Texstudio only comes with a rudimentary spell checker with little grammar checking abilities (it’s a pain to copy paste in Word, mostly because Word’s checker gets caught into LaTex syntax).
  2. I am so bad that even state-of-the-art language checker do not catch most of my mistakes. For instance, I am very bad with homophones. I often get words like “to” and “too” mixed up when I write, which even Word’s checker misses most of the time.

Regarding 2., what I really need is a language checker in which I can set up my own rules. When I realize I’ve made a mistake, I know I am likely to make that mistake again. Thus it is just a matter of making the effort to write down a rule that will catch that mistake for me in the future.

I’ve wanted to do just that for a while, but never found the right tool. My salvation might come from LanguageTool.

  1. LanguageTool works with Texstudio (see for a simple installation tutorial) and natively improves upon the default language checker in Texstudio.
  2. LanguageTool gives you the ability to add your personal rules using a relatively straightforward syntax (there is a learning curve, but it’s not too bad).

For instance, I can easily tell LanguageTool to look for instances of “It is not to bad” (which Word’s checker does not flag) and suggest to replace it by “It is not too bad”.

Rules in LanguageTool are quite versatile and allows for regular expression via the regex syntax.

LanguageTool’s tutorial explains how to create and add rules very didactically at Because the previous link has broken in the past, here is a direct quote describing the basics:

“Most rules are contained in rules/xx/grammar.xml, whereas xx is a language code like en or de. In the source code, this folder will be found under languagetool-language-modules/xx/src/main/resources/org/languagetool/; the standalone GUI version contains them under org/languagetool/.

A rule is basically a pattern which shows an error message to the user if the pattern matches. A pattern can address words or part-of-speech tags. Here are some examples of patterns that can be used in that file:

  • <token>think</token>
    matches the word think
  • <token>think</token> <token>about</token>
    Matches the phrase think about – as the text is split into words, you need to list each word separately as a token. This will not work: <token>think about</token>
  • <token regexp="yes">think|say</token>
    matches the regular expression think|say, i.e. the word think or the word say. You can write simple rules without knowing regular expressions, but if you want to learn more about them you can try this tutorial.”

LanguageTool even has a handy rule editor that you can use to create new rules if you don’t want to learn too much about the rules’ syntax (

You can download a list of the custom rules I find most useful here. I will try to update the list as I write down new rules.

Synchronizing attached files in Zotero

Zotero offers free database synchronization across devices, but if you want to synchronize more than 300Mb of attached files through Zotero’s official storage service, you will have to subscribe to a paid plans.

For not searching enough in Zotero’s documentation, I initially thought Zotero’s official storage service was the only way to go. For a while, I had been using a hand-made  iffy solution relying on a dropbox-like synchronization of my “Literature” folder, in order to have my attached files synchronized without paying. I discovered the hard way that this “solution” was not without problems (see

Then, as I was working out the problems with my hand-made solution, I rediscovered that Zotero’s folks are really all you can expect from open-source developers. Among other things — and  unlike folks at Mendeley, they do not want to trap you into using their own storage service. This means you can safely use a free third party storage to synchronize your attached files. Just follow the procedure described  on, under the title WebDAV.

Zotero even maintains a list of third party storage providers which are known to work fine with Zotero :

I personally chose 4shared and have been happy with it so far (4shared’s connection to Zotero used to be a little hard to set up — see, but this problem was solved in later versions of Zotero).


Proofreading your work with Amazon Mturk

How ?

What you can hope from it

I personally tried it on one of my working papers and was very much satisfied with the value for money/time.

If you are sharing the pages of your paper with the Mturker via a dropbox public folder, you might want to avoid manually copying the public links to each of your pages into the cvs file. If you are using a mac, one way to automate this step is using the Create Dropbox Collection v1.1 service by Brett Terpstra. However, this generates an ordered list of the links, meaning you will still have to manually remove the numbers in front of each link. If you want to skip that last step, see the simple tweak of Create Dropbox Collection I put on the Code section.

The whys and hows of giving up Mendeley and going “all in” with Zotero