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Writers’ Lab: Writing for non-native speakers

As a non-native speaker, you face additional challenges when preparing an academic publication. The author of this guest post is Evelyn Cowan from Enago, a company specialized in English editing and proofreading for scientific manuscripts. She agreed to share some of her best advice for non-native writers of English.


The academic style of writing, as opposed to informal writing, involves the expression of a paper/article/essay’s meaning without blocking the reader’s sense of clarity. Hence, it is always best to simplify the language, formulating sentences without heavy wordplay, which in some cases could lead to the muddling of meaning. Even simple misused homophones, words with similar spellings and/or pronunciation but with different meaning such as its/it’s and affect/effect, may alter the impact and meaning of the written word. It is always best to reconfirm the meaning of a given word to avoid its awkward positioning.

The best ways to avoid this is to follow seven simple steps for writing academic papers. Though it is not an in-depth analysis of the writing skills needed in the academic style, it builds a fair idea on what is needed.

1. The first most important task is to select a manual of style/style guide (Chicago/APA/AMA/ASA/MHRA/MLA…). This will streamline the form your paper needs to follow.

2. Always try and list your idea/argument before framing it. This would help understand its order of importance, enabling a simplified, comprehensible flow of the paper.

3. It is not mandatory to have complex sentence constructions in your paper. Thus, the readability could be enhanced by simple and concise sentences.

4. Avoid using abbreviations without defining them in the first instance. Though the use of parlance is common, only technical papers encourage the use of abbreviations or words known in a particular field.

5. Use the right punctuation to avoid loss of meaning, abrupt endings or long continuous sentences. The right punctuation is necessary for a clearer, meaningful sentence, which may otherwise disrupt the flow of the entire paper.

6. Another important rule of thumb is the appropriate choice of words as it is important for the meaning of the written word. The right choice of word also makes an impact with the reader and enhances the readability of the paper.

7. Finally, get your paper reviewed by someone fluent in the language to highlight any gaps in meaning or content due to incorrect use of any technical aspect of the language. Also, developmental changes may be suggested by them, giving you greater insight for future references.

About Enago:
Enago is the world’s leading English editing service provider to ESL authors. Enago’s professional editors are native English speakers and subject area experts with an average experience of 19.4 years in academic editing in the areas of medicine, engineering, economics, physics and more. Enago has been consistently delivering high quality, i.e., 100% error-free edited manuscripts, to its clients in a timely manner for meeting its ultimate objective of academic paper acceptance in international journals.

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