Abstract: Electron-probe microanalysis (EPMA) is applicable to rare-earth elements (REE) in minerals with relatively high REE concentrations (e.g. hundreds of parts per million). However, given that each of the 14 REE has at least 12 X-ray lines in the L spectrum, finding peak-free regions for background measurement can be problematical. Also, measured peak intensities are liable to require correction for interferences. Hitherto, little attention has been paid to the optimisation of background offsets and the implications of the wide variation in REE distribution patterns in different minerals. The ‘Virtual WDS’ program, which enables complex multi-element spectra to be synthesised, has been used to refine the conditions used for different REE distributions. Choices include whether to use the Lβ1 rather than the Lα1 line, background offsets, and counting times for comparable relative precision. Correction factors for interferences affecting peak and background measurements have also been derived.