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During peer-review, is it part of the job of the reviewer to check the spelling, typos, grammar, and suggest improvement? It will help the paper and seems part of the job, but seeing some manuscripts it could take ages to write down every tiny correction in the review.

So, is it the job of the reviewer to judge quality of the writing?

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    I also would like to add to all the great answers, that if the manuscript you receive for review is so littered with typos and grammatical errors that it is actually hard to understand, you might consider refusing to review until the author turns in a readable manuscript. I once received a horribly TeXed manuscript that was simply painful to read (among other things, using a lot of < instead of \langle, so you got things like <x,y>>1). I suggested to the editor to ask the author to improve the typesetting. Once the author turned in a manuscript without this issues, I reviewed it.
    – Kallus
    Nov 8 '13 at 21:01
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No, the major goal is to examine the validity, integrity and contribution of the work. Since these can be challenged, causing the work to be rejected or subjected to a major revision, editing at this stage would just be like staining the wood before the carpentry work.

Also, at least for me, my mind runs on two different gears when engaged in editing and reviewing. If I have to edit, I can only edit; if I have to think about the concept, I can't edit... perhaps in my mind editing only happens when the concept is already there.

Having said that, there are three areas I always do a full body pat down, once for concept, once for edit:

  1. Table: I suggest always comb through the table title, column and row titles, numeric agreement, footnotes, superscripts, etc.
  2. Illustration: Check labels, title, and footnotes.
  3. Abstract: Look for typos and point out if a particular sentence appears to be terse or even misleading.

The reason for putting the abstract under all lenses is apparent. The reasons for checking the illustration and table are that these are usually the most neglected places in copy editing and revision. And yet, these are the most viewed sections in a paper. Nine out of 10 errors I've spotted in journal articles are in these two hot spots.

In the main text, if there is any sentence that is very grammatically challenged, I cite the page and line in the review, and comment on the need of a rewritten version.

If there are typos, I collectively write one separate comment requesting a through spell-checking, and give 2-5 occasions in the article as examples.

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The simple answer is no. Unless the review instructions ask for such comments, it is not mandatory. When I do a review, I usually do some corrections if there are not too many of them. If the paper is littered with such errors I might make corrections for one or two manuscript pages and then state to both authors and editors that the papers needs substantial checking and correction beyond my capacity. I also sometimes just leave that comment without making example corrections.

One of the more problematic issues is the difference between native English speakers and this who have English as a second or third language. Clearly authors who are not native speakers, should receive more help than others. There are also services that do language corrections and each publisher typically can suggest such services. If there are native English speakers as co-authors, some responsibility should fall on them to correct the language, after all, they are credited, or perhaps discredited, by the paper as well. So my point is that some leniency has to be considered depending on the severity of the problem but the bottom line is no-one is forced to correct spelling and grammar.

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It is not the job of a reviewer to proofread an article.

However, it is the responsibility of a reviewer to comment on issues that would improve the state of a manuscript. Therefore, one should not completely turn a blind eye to issues of formatting, spelling, and grammar. Moreover, there are some papers where the grammar, spelling, and usage of English is so poor that it actually hinders appropriate evaluation of the manuscript.

Thus, it is appropriate to include some comments on the general level of usage in a review, although one would not want to list tons of typographical errors as part of the review; a comment that corrections are necessary should suffice.

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