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As a native English speaker, when I review papers I sometimes carefully go through the English and list my proposed changes, which adds a fair amount of time to the review process.

The most extreme case of this was for a good paper I reviewed for a top computer-science journal, but with fairly poor English. I went through everything in detail, marking proposed changes on a hard copy, then sent back a scan with my review. This kind of review typically adds hours, possibly even days.

It makes me wonder if it's at all appreciated. Perhaps the authors groan when they see such reviews, thinking there's a lot of tedious legwork to do. Or, as I hope, they actually learn something meaningful from this effort. I don't really know.

Question: Do non-native English speakers appreciate it when I carefully correct their English in peer reviews?

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    As a non-native speaker I would certainly appreciate it but I would also wonder why you spent days on something that is not required from an unpaid reviewer. It is not your job to teach proper English to the authors. If extensive language editing is needed, just say so in the review. At my institute, we routinely use a professional language editing service before submitting our manuscripts. – Roland Aug 6 '18 at 10:46
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    Why do I do this is basically the question. If the authors on the other end find it useful or helpful, then I feel it's worthwhile. – Rebecca J. Stones Aug 6 '18 at 10:56
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    But it would probably be more worthwhile if you (i) did more reviews, (ii) faster reviews, (iii) more research. There are probably far less people qualified to do your job than there are language editors. – Roland Aug 6 '18 at 10:59
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    As a non-native English speaker, I generally appreciate corrections, but too many times I've seen native speakers suggesting wrong or useless corrections (e. g. American English speakers not recognising the British spelling of a word). So, do it if you really wish, but do it humbly. – Massimo Ortolano Aug 6 '18 at 11:05
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    This varies greatly. I know some non-native speakers who are eager to improve their English and grateful for any corrections you give them. I know others who couldn't care less. – Andreas Blass Aug 6 '18 at 13:23
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I think it is a good idea. Yes, even in mathematics. And even papers by native English speakers.

Sometimes, if the English has many errors, I just note that in my review, and suggest the author have the paper corrected by an English speaker before re-submitting.

Journals should have their own people to correct English after papers are accepted. But who knows what happens with modern free-access no-fee journals who cannot afford such luxuries?

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    +1. Yes it is an editor's job, not a reviewers, but if you want to take it on, and are correct in your changes, it can only improve the outcome. It should be greatly appreciated. – Buffy Aug 6 '18 at 10:58
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    "I just note that in my review, and suggest the author have the paper corrected by an English speaker before re-submitting." Just don't be the obnoxious reviewer who assumes based on a name that someone is not an English speaker. – Anonymous Physicist Aug 17 at 13:23
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As someone who was exposed to the British "Programme" English early in his life. Then moved to American "Program" English, I much appreciate feedback on my English as I have no time for Tutoring and I do not like "special editing services" (mainly because the manuscript will be edited by someone not expert in the field).

In fact, I usually memorize reviewers' suggestions and criticism over my English because they are coming from "peers" that are likely to judge my future manuscripts.

3

Whatever you do, and for the benefit of anyone looking who might have done so: please stop writing that we should have our manuscript checked by a native speaker.

I am referring to those who do write that, not you in particular.

Do not "gatekeep" the knowledge of the English language behind a nationality. It's a matter of proficiency, it's not about the country in which one was born. We are perfectly capable of reaching C1/C2 level in English (advanced fluency) even though we might not have been born in an anglosaxon country.

Something like "please have someone fluent in English proof read the manuscript" would be better.

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    Suggesting that your manuscript is checked by a native speaker is a good suggestion to improve the quality of the paper. – Solar Mike Aug 17 at 5:55
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    Maybe my point didn't come across. Being native doesn't guarantee that the person has expert knowledge of the grammar of their own lamguage. That's why it would be better to ask someone more fluent, regardless of their nationality. – TheWanderer Aug 17 at 10:22
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    @SolarMike I know many native speakers in English that you wouldn't want to edit your manuscript. – sgf Aug 17 at 13:41
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    Flagging this for deletion as it seems to answer a completely different question. – Wrzlprmft Aug 17 at 17:43
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    @TheWanderer: You are not explicitly talking about what you (or anybody else) feels at all. You are just giving recommendation that is about a different situation on top. – Wrzlprmft Aug 17 at 19:35
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That might depend on the field. In mathematics I wouldn't say that this is a good idea, as it will annoy the authors more than anything. If there is only one error or two, you can of course mention them, but if there are lots and lots of errors, I would just mention that in a general statement, not list them all.
I think that everyone makes mistakes when writing a long text (I'm sure there are some even in my relatively short answer here), so if there are way too many, that is most likely due to a wrong use (or no use at all) of a spell checker. Thus, an author that cares about that can go over his file again after reading your comment and will know how to properly spell check for upcoming papers.
If, on the other hand, you list all the errors, he will most likely just correct them without learning anything for the future.

Of course that is assuming that authors do care about spelling.

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    "In mathematics I wouldn't say that this is a good idea, as it will annoy the authors more than anything." I don't definitively disagree, but could you explain why you think so? – Pete L. Clark Aug 6 '18 at 16:02

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