I have submitted my manuscript to a journal. After several weeks the editor sent me the comments of two reviewers. The editor said that "the authors should provide proof that the paper has been proofread by a native English speaker".

So how can I provide the proof? Should I send the proofreading certificate which I recieved after using the service from a proofreading company?

And if I only ask a native speaker for proofreading without any certificates, how should i provide the proof?

  • 15
    'should' doesn't mean you have to. My suggestion is to get someone that's proficient to fix your paper. The proof is in the pudding -- meaning if the paper reads ok, that's proof. Even native speakers do not necessarily write well. Some reviewers are racists or discriminate against Asian authors; hence, their number one comment is always to get someone like 'them' to read and write a paper because only them can do good work. – Prof. Santa Claus Sep 19 '18 at 4:46
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    My 10 yo son is a French native speaker and you definitely would not like him to proofread an article in his mother tongue. This applies to almost all of his class and then 74% of the population (the number is completely made up - this is based on my personal suffering when reading professional emails full of grammatical errors). In other words this is a ridiculous request. – WoJ Sep 19 '18 at 11:10
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    It should be crystal clear to the editor if the paper was read carefully by a native speaker simply by reading it. – Nick S Sep 19 '18 at 16:00
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    It sounds to me that the proof-readers have done a rather bad job so the editor doesn't believe the paper has been proofed at all. – David Richerby Sep 19 '18 at 19:27
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    As a side note, I find the fetishizing of native speakers quite annoying. What you really care about is proficiency in writing, and this is not nearly as correlated with being a native speaker as people seem to think. – Sasho Nikolov Sep 19 '18 at 22:19

This seems like an unreasonable request. Frankly, it does not matter if you paper has been proof-read by a native speaker or not. If, after revision, your English presentation is still bad, the editor won't accept it even if you include proof that it was read by a native speaker.

I would personally be prone to just ignore this request, make sure that the English language is as good as it can be, and resubmit the paper.

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    I second this. We had a question once, which can't find now, from someone who had their paper proofread by a "professional" service. The service did a terrible job (it was almost a scam) but provided a certificate, so the certificate per se says nothing. – henning -- reinstate Monica Sep 19 '18 at 7:40
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    @henning I do recall that question. I also recall that the service even included a snippet on their website mentioning that often reviewers would be unable to see that the English they produced really was "flawless" (or whatever wording they used. It was really rather amazingly arrogant). – Tobias Kildetoft Sep 19 '18 at 8:15
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    I think that this is probably the question @henning mentions. – Peter Taylor Sep 19 '18 at 14:53

And if I only ask a native speaker for proofreading without any certificates, how should i provide the proof?

Have the proofreader write a short letter to the editor, describing who they are, where they learned English, and stating that they have proofread your paper. They can also state their opinion of the quality of the English after proofreading. Have them sign it, and forward it to the editor.

While of course such a letter could be faked, I doubt that the editor would desire any more proof than this.

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    This is absolutely correct, but this also seems like an odd request to me. Many native speakers are not good writers and many people who know English as a second language write very well. I know several lawyers in the USA for whom English is not their native language. – TimothyAWiseman Sep 19 '18 at 15:47
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    If you want a technical solution, have them PGP-sign a the letter + the version of the paper they read. Like sign a zip file, or sign an email with attachment. We've had the technology to prove identity for a couple decades, if only people would use it. (PGP depends on a web-of-trust for the recipient to be able to trust that the signer is who they say they are, so it kind of requires a critical mass of adoption to fully serve that purpose.) – Peter Cordes Sep 19 '18 at 19:47
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    @DeanMacGregor The "where" in this context is likely to mean "which country" more than anything. A native English speaker from America would give different results from a native English speaker from England, and there are various other places around the world that have English as a primary language such as India. – Kamil Drakari Sep 20 '18 at 15:49
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    @KamilDrakari I can't really refute the possibility of that except that it seems such a vague and roundabout way of asking where someone is from. Like I said, if someone asked me where I learned English, it would never occur to me to answer the country I'm from. – Dean MacGregor Sep 20 '18 at 15:51
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    I have never seen a journal routinely ask for a proof of proofreading. The comment can only mean that the language of the paper is actually unsatifactory for the editor. Possibility 1: This is a journal you don't want to publish in, 2: it is, and you need to fix your English, now. – Karl Sep 20 '18 at 17:56

This sounds like an unreasonable request which makes me doubt the quality of the journal. If the journal's review process is good, the editor should be able to decide whether the standards of language are appropriate for the publication without asking for external "proof". Most journals I published with will also use their in-house proofreading service to improve the paper after it's recommended for publication. A request that the authors should use an external proofreading service is neither necessary nor sufficient to ensure the quality of the outcome. I would ignore it and resubmit the paper making sure it's as clear as you can make it.

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    In-house proofreading? Who ever heard of such a thing? Did you transmit this answer forward in time from the nineteenth century? ;-) – zwol Sep 21 '18 at 2:43
  • SIAM does it for all their journals, for example, and a couple of other journals which I do not remember ATM. – Dmitry Savostyanov Sep 21 '18 at 8:33

You can also just ask the editor what sort of proof he would like to see. Might be the simplest method.


Yes, send the certificate you received from the proofreading company.

There are proofreading companies out there who will edit your paper until it's acceptable, so if the editor comes back with "this still isn't good enough" that's what to do next.

  • Thank you very much. If I only as my friend for proofreading, he is a native English speaker, how should I provide them the proof? – Duc Tuan Sep 19 '18 at 2:17
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    Some editor, I forget which, said these certificates are worthless. – Anonymous Physicist Sep 19 '18 at 3:57
  • @DucTuan was going to write something, but then Nate Eldredge wrote what I was going to say. – Allure Sep 19 '18 at 4:21

This sounds like a strange request. Not all native english speakers are good writers. This should not be about who proofread the paper rather than the quality of the submitted work.

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