Mind the (Language) Gap

How Academic Editing Can Improve Publishing Prospects for Non-Native English Speakers

Female academic types up research

We have all heard the axiom “publish or perish” in reference to the pressure on academics to publish in order to remain competitive in their careers. For many scholars, academic editing can improve their publishing prospects.

Indeed, publication is fast becoming a prerequisite to being hired in academia, thus intensifying competition in an already crowded marketplace. Add to this the worldwide push for publication in English, and the issue becomes one of accessibility: Scholars whose mother tongue is English have a clear advantage when it comes to getting published.

But only twenty-five percent of the world’s 1.5 billion English speakers are native speakers. Scholars who are non-native English speakers (NNES) compete on a very uneven playing field for publication in a limited number of prestigious journals, many of which require high-level English.

Journals often advise authors to have their manuscripts checked “by a native English speaker” prior to submission. Academics may think that if they team up with one or more native-speaking co-authors, they do not need an editor. Much depends, however, on the co-authors’ language skills and willingness to act as editors.

Navigating the publication process

Journals consider many variables when deciding which articles to publish—and which to decline. It is not uncommon to reject manuscripts due to space constraints, a poor fit, and other issues that are, to a great extent, out of the author’s control.

However, journal editors have identified other issues leading to their rejection of articles:   

·         Inability to adhere to journal style

·         Poorly organized content and structure

·         Lack of language editing

·         Poorly structured arguments

·         Inattention to reviewers’ comments

The good news is that all of the above problems can be remedied with the right resources, in particular a skilled academic editor.

How can an academic editor help?

When working on your article, an academic editor will look comprehensively at:

·         Content (Is your paper structured according to academic norms?)

·         Language (Is the grammar correct? Is the spelling consistent? Is the language academically appropriate?)

·         Format (Does it conform to the style guide of the specific journal or publication?)

Finding an academic editor

Editors abound - type “academic editor” into a search engine and you’ll get millions of results. So how do you choose the right one for you?

As with any service, it makes sense to request several quotes before committing to one editor. How do you narrow down your search? Some academic editors work with university (or even high school) students and not necessarily with professional scholars. Editing a first-year philosophy essay is entirely different from editing an article destined for a professional academic journal, so it helps to get a sense of an editor’s typical clientele.  

Another key is finding an academic editor with language skills who has intimate knowledge of your subject area and has completed postgraduate studies. This dual expertise is necessary to match the rigour and highly specialized nature of academic writing.

Depending on your proficiency in English, you may choose to write your paper in your native language and work with an academic translator. To ensure quality and consistency throughout the process, the translator should ideally also be able to provide editing and formatting services.

Although NNES scholars face particular challenges when it comes to publishing in English-language journals, the good news is that skilled academic editors can fill the language gap and improve your publishing prospects.

Start publishing now!