Nautilus

Writing advice for non-native-English speakers

In commenting on the post “Web visibility”, José J. Lunazzi writes: "The title of the article mentioning “speaking” english concerns in fact to a smaller but not small problem, that of “writing” english. It is good to read that people whose native language is english need to be conscious and willing in some way to reduce the problem for the whole science. A good and simple way is to learn esperanto and start communicating with the world through it. Seeing the broad spectrum the “delta” strictly selective function of english can be understood. I had beeing at Korea, China and Japan using esperanto and english, same as in USA, and am sure that esperanto performs much better in every field of activity, coloquial, domestic or in physics."

I replied along these lines: the Esperanto solution is sensible “on paper” but realistically it is unlikely to occur, given the length of time since Esperanto was devised as a universal language.

International science journals can provide help in various ways for authors whose first language is not English. The Nature journals provide advice before the author submits — see our webpage on the author and referee site for this purpose. This page provides a link to similar useful advice at SciDev.Net.

We’d be happy to link to other examples of writing advice for scientists in our “writing a paper” guidelines — whether research papers, review articles or other types of scientific or technical article. Please let us know if you are aware of good guidelines, and we’ll link to it to help future authors maximize clarity in preparing their manuscripts.

Comments

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    Angus Thomson said:

    We have published extensive and practical advice on writing and publishing a scientific paper at http://www.inter-biotec.com/index.html

    It is particularly aimed at assisting non-native English speakers, and is complemented by a blog that will aim in particular to be useful to scientists who have no access to training in writing and presenting data in English, such as those in resource-limited settings.

    A second resource is William Strunk’s classic “The Elements of Style”, also freely available, much of which is directly relevant to scientific English. True to its own rules, it is stripped of all unecessary words making it a quick but invaluable read.

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    Guido De Mey said:

    Can you direct me to parallel scientific texts in English-Japanese or Chinese as this could be a useful support for learning Japanese or Chinese? The texts I find in naturejpn or natureasia are too fuzzy matches of English to learn from comparison (as long as my JPN and CHN primers are too short to recombine with English).

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