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I am an Early Stage Researcher in a bigger project. I am non-native speaker of English and I find my level of English in my articles not satisfactory, especially when I consider that it is not just my reputation but also the reputation of the project.

I am thinking about hiring a proofreader for my future articles or other texts for publication.

My long term goal is to improve myself enough so I would not need a proofreader in the future. Does the possibility to see your corrected text help you improve your writing skill in the long term, or are English classes necessary?

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Both things are not exclusive. –  Piotr Migdal Nov 16 '12 at 11:56
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3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

What improves most your English level (or help you maintain it if you have reached a certain level which you deem satisfactory) is usage of the language in all its forms: listening, speaking, reading, writing. This is especially easy in this age of globalization and technology: just keep reading texts of all kinds, listening to the radio, watching TV programs in original language (BBC news, series, …), professional podcasts or videocasts, etc.

In addition, comparing the proofread text of articles with your original version can help you better understand some of the mistakes you make, the invalid constructions you may use and the shibboleths that give you away as a non-native speaker. However, unless you write (and get proofread) a large number of papers, this might not be enough to improve significantly.

Another possibility is to pay a teacher to actually review with you, on a regular basis, texts that you have written. Although it takes quite a bit of time, I believe it is one of the best ways to improve your written English, along with reading a lot.

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So, the answer in NO(?). You believe that the ability to write an article with satisfactory level of English cannot be reached just by proofreading (see the mistakes you do) but also by practising listening, reading and so on. Am I right? Also because if you do not have to pay attention on trivial thinks you can focus more for example on, text structure? –  MasterPJ Nov 17 '12 at 9:26
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@MasterPJ unless you do it very often, yes, I think reading corrections is not enough to improve your written English by much… –  F'x Nov 17 '12 at 10:09
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I would recommend both, for exactly the reasons you stated. Hire a proofreader to maintain a high quality current professional image, and take English language lessons to ensure that you can maintain a high quality future professional image (and to ensure you're not paying a proofreader for the rest of your career).

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If you do decide to get a proofreader, make sure he understands the field you work in. Different fields have very different jargons, and a proofreader who is not proficient in your field will make things worse, not better. I have seen what a native English speaker (but non-psychologist) can do to an English psychology manuscript written by non-native speakers, and the results were not pretty...

It may actually be better to identify someone with strong English skills who may not be a native speaker but knows your field's specific jargon.

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