Troubleshooting LaTeX compilation errors when submitting to journals

May 16, 2019

I just spent several hours troubleshooting a number of problems I encountered while trying to submit the LaTeX source files of a forthcoming manuscript to a journal hosted by Manuscript Central / ScholarOne (Journal of Semantics). Since I (and/or others) will likely encounter these (or similar) problems in the future, I figured I’d document my solutions to the two problems that gave me the most trouble, plus my failure to solve a third problem. Given also my previous post, this may turn into a series of posts…

Pro-tip: The first step is always to inspect the log file produced by the compilation. In my case, I saw that the journal’s version of TeX Live is from 2013 — 6 years old! This turned out to be the source of both problems below.

1. Fixing old versions of TeX Live with fixltx2e

The first problem was that I kept getting an error regarding my use of \textsubscript. It took me longer than I care to admit to just google the issue. The first result was this Stack Exchange thread, which reveals that before 2015, you needed to use the fixltx2e package to properly use \textsubscript. So I added

to my preamble.

If you’re using an up-to-date version of TeX Live, this will produce a warning letting you know that you don’t need this package anymore.

2. Using a package that the journal doesn’t have

The second problem was that the journal doesn’t have the ExPex package. (This package was only written in 2014, a year after the journal’s version of TeX Live, and only available as part of TeX Live since 2017.)

In theory, this shouldn’t pose a huge problem, because the journal allows you to upload “supplementary TeX/LaTeX files” — meaning you can just upload the source files to any package that’s missing.

In the case of ExPex, those files would be:

expex.sty
expex.tex
epltxfn.sty

(expex.sty is just a wrapper for expex.tex. There’s also epltxchapno.sty, but that’s for works with chapters.)

The problem I encountered was that the journal was trying to convert expex.tex to a PDF, which was producing a bunch of errors — because that file isn’t intended to be converted into a PDF — and the system won’t let you complete submission if there are any unconverted TeX files.

On a hunch, I renamed expex.tex to expex (i.e. I removed the extension). Thankfully…

  1. The journal didn’t complain much. (It did give me a warning about no extension, but it let me continue anyway.)
  2. It no longer tried to convert expex to PDF.
  3. The missing ExPex package worked seamlessly even with the missing .tex extension on the main file.

3. Re-running Biber (or BibTeX) to fix citations

This is something I couldn’t solve: although the system produced a PDF, it didn’t produce proper citations, or print a bibliography. Usually, this means that Biber (or BibTeX) needs to be re-run, but I couldn’t force the system to do that from my end.

The problem could be because I use Biblatex/Biber instead of the traditional BibTeX. I tried forcing the Biber backend by adding the directive

to the top of the TeX file, but that didn’t work. (This is apparently only for TeX Shop, which I guess the journal doesn’t use. I’m not sure if there’s a more general directive, or a directive for latexmk, similar to the %&pdflatex directive that I discussed in my previous post.)

The problem could also be because the journal uses plain pdflatex rather than something like latexmk, which takes care of Biber/Biblatex and multiple compilations.

In any case, I was able to complete my submission (along with my own PDF, with all the citations and bibliography), because of the solutions to the first two problems.