Beef It: My greatest LaTeX achievement

(This is a silly post. You have been warned.)

(For those unfamiliar with LaTeX and LaTeX macros, see the appendix below for a brief introduction.)

Sometimes, when writing, I really need to emphasize something. Italics are not enough. Bold is not enough. In these situations, I need to beef it up.

How do I go about doing this? With my all-time favorite LaTeX macro, \bfit{}:


This macro takes any text input and makes it bold and italic. \bfit{Say it loud} becomes Say it loud. So when I really need to pull out all the emphasis stops, I’m ready!

OK, so you’re probably extremely mad at me if you haven’t bailed yet. “So what? It’s bold and italics together. Who cares?”

Beef it up? \bfit{up}. Beef it. bfit. Get it? The macro names itself! Now, when writing, I can figuratively (and sometimes literally) shout BEEF IT UP when writing.

Bold and italics are generally rarely used in formal, peer-reviewed publications. But it can be quite helpful in other professional writing, like grant proposals, memos, even emails. And sometimes in those settings, I need some amusement to get through the slog.

Beef it (bfit) always makes me laugh!

Maybe I’ve already jumped the shark.

Appendix: LaTeX and LaTeX Macros

LaTeX is the way most computational and mathematical writing is produced. It is a fantastic tool that creates impressive, high-quality output. It does have a steep learning curve 1 but I love it.

Unlike word processors, LaTeX keeps the content separate from the style. I prefer to work this way. This separation makes it easier to treat the writing in an almost computational manner, by letting authors define macros.

At the most superficial level, LaTeX macros let authors define short aliases for long blocks of text. For example, I’m writing a lot of mathematics and need to represent vectors. This macro acts as a quick shortcut


Calling \myvec{4} would then produce $(x_1, x_2, \ldots, x_4)$.

This saves a lot of typing but it also centralizes a decision. The variable $x$ is now defined within the macro. Suppose in the final stages of drafting, I decide $y$ is more appropriate. I just need to edit \myvec and everything in the document is updated. No need for any potentially time-consuming find-and-replace 2.

  1. Part of the learning curve used to be installing and configuring LaTeX. But nowadays all you need to do is create an Overleaf account and you are good to go! ↩︎

  2. We’ve all been there, right? ↩︎

Jim Bagrow
Jim Bagrow
Associate Professor of Mathematics & Statistics

My research interests include complex networks, computational social science, and data science.