top of page

Editing for Authors Who Are are Multi-Language/ English as a Second Language


Resources for editors


Fox, Helen. Listening to the World: Cultural Issues in Academic Writing. National Council of Teachers of English, Urbana, Illinois. 1994.


Hart, Geoff. Finding, working with, and retaining (ESL) clients (Parts 1, 2, and 3). An American Editor. 2020. 


Motokawa, Tatsuo. Sushi science and hamburger science. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine. 1989; 32: 489–504.


Mudrak, Benjamin. Understanding the needs of international authors. Learned Publishing 2013;26:139–147.


O’Moore-Klopf, Katharine. Building good relationships with ESL authors [within the department “Between Author and Editor”]. Science Editor 2011 June 30.


Stevens, Matthew. Writing Science in English: A Guide for Japanese Scientists. 2021.


Swales JM, Feak CB. Academic Writing for Graduate Students Essential Tasks and Skills. 3rd ed. University of Michigan Press. 2012.


Lakoff G, Johnson M. Metaphors We Live By. University of Chicago Press. 2003.


Skillin ME, Gay RM. Words into Type. 3rd ed. Prentice Hall. 1974.

Resources and suggestions for ESL authors:


Glasman-Deal, Hilary. Science Research Writing for Native and Non-native Speakers of English. 2nd ed. World Scientific Publishing. 2021.


Academic Phrasebank 


Google Scholar wildcard search:

Type in a phrase with an asterisk in place of a modifier or other key word to see what other authors have used in that position.

Example from Swales and Feak (pp 28-29):

Search: “in recent years there has been * interest” “electric vehicles”

Results: “increasing”, “considerable”, and “extensive” have all been used to modify “interest” in this context


Word Power [web page for English learners].


Author can

  • create a personal list of of words that are easily confused or that they have trouble with

  • write in their native language and have it translated before being edited


Suggestions for working with ESL authors:

  • Unless the author strongly prefers otherwise, correspond primarily by email to give the author time to understand what you are saying and to avoid problems with accents.

  • Review your written communications (queries and emails) before sending them to make sure the language is accessible for authors who have difficulty with English.

  • Remember that many ESL authors have much higher expertise in the language of their subject area than in daily conversational language.

  • Read correspondence from the author carefully before responding to be sure you understand the content and intent. The English may be even more challenging than that in the document to be edited.


Ethical issues and plagiarism


American Physiological Society. What you need to know about ethical issues when writing a scientific paper [chart].


Annesley TM. Giving Credit: Citations and References. Clinical Chemistry 2011;57:114–17 (Sloppy reference citation can lead to accusations of plagiarism)


Cameron C, Zhao H, McHugh MK. Perspective: Publication Ethics and the Emerging Scientific Workforce: Understanding “Plagiarism” in a Global Context. Academic Medicine 2012;87(1),51-54: 

DOI: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31823aadc7


Strong, William S. The Copyright Book. 6th ed. MIT Press. 2016.


The Writing Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Quoting and Paraphrasing. (also see the handout available on the site)

**List compiled by Naomi Ruff and Elizabeth Christensen**

bottom of page