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Recently I received this comment from an Elsevier editor "The manuscript does not reach the required quality standard of this journal.". Since then have been found some answers but also raise additional questions. Like the one I making here. (You can browse the initial question following this link here.)

One of the criteria for acceptance of a paper is the one of written language throughout the text. Many times is found great published articles on more peripherical journals simply because the article does not comply strictly with the language minimum requirements for any other more reputable* Journals. Spite all the work is properly done, explained, and demonstrated both graphically and mathematically.

In my particular case, my written English inherits some of my native language (PT) sentence constructs, which may be confusing to those with native English (UK and US) writing skills.

That said, and thinking also in terms of open-data and open-source access to all, how can a researcher, in particular a junior (newbie) research, can learn the language requirements for a specific scientific Journal?

EDIT: Yesterday I forgot to add an essential and relevant fact to this conversion, which is: many and many scientific researchers don't have the opportunity to develop their research works in a team or even do it collaboratively. They have to rely on themselves to present their findings and defend their thesis. And everyone here is acquainted with the syndrome of "tunnel effect" when writing. So having someone, that can give a small contribution to unlocking someone else research writing, I see as a welcoming behavior that can only benefit the scientific community at the individual level.

EDIT 2: in the midst of all these comments and answers, I found today, this small tutorial with some useful tips for non-native English researchers https://www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/how-to/authoring-editing-reviewing/submit-for-non-native-english-speakers

EDIT 3: since the initial commit, I took the liberty and went requesting quotes online for proofreading and grammar. 400 CAD is quite a lot for a student, imho. It's not feasible.

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    how can a researcher...learn the language requirements for a specific scientific Journal? Don't learn some particularly journal's requirements: Learn to write well. (Reviewers, and even editors, are regularly oblivious to journal specific requirements.) – user2768 Feb 17 at 9:53
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    Language requirements don't differ so much between journals. Not enough, anyway, to make this a citerion for chosing a journal to submit your manuscript to. Better to search for strategies to improve your writing, or the writing of the paper in question. – henning -- reinstate Monica Feb 17 at 10:03
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    @MiguelSilva The problem is that language limitations limit the understanding of a paper - it's hard to understand and judge whether work is really good when you cannot be sure you understand it correctly. Therefore, journals ask for a good level of English. – Mark Feb 17 at 10:59
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    "I strongly disagree with both" - since OP already asks a question here, they should be open to accept or at least reflect upon the suggestions made on the site rather than dismiss them outright. The responders here at SE are happy to explain OP the rules of the game. OP can of course happily choose to ignore it. As the editors of the journals can happily choose to reject OP's papers. – Captain Emacs Feb 17 at 11:32
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    Please don't ask multiple times the same question. – Massimo Ortolano Feb 18 at 8:56
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I think your premise is wrong. Although an editor commenting

"The manuscript does not reach the required quality standard of this journal."

can imply

the article does not comply strictly with the language...requirements

I think it is more likely that standards for research quality haven't been met. Indeed, I regularly see high quality research published in top journals even though the writing is merely reasonable.

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    Exactly. Even reading carefully the question, it seems OP takes it up side down. "Many times is found great published articles on more peripherical journals simply because the article does not comply strictly with the language minimum requirements..." never saw something like that. If it happens, it can have every sort of disparate reasons, from the initial choice of the authors to a nasty referee, and so on. Plus 1 – Alchimista Feb 17 at 11:54
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If I would review a paper of yours, and the paper would contain similar language errors as found in this question, then I would complain about the level of English too. Let's dissect:

Since then have been found some answers

What does this even mean? What or who is the subject of this sentence?

Like the one I making here.

This is a sentence fragment instead of a sentence, and also it is without an active verb (it just contains a gerund, which is simply ungrammatical).

Many times is found great published articles on more peripherical journals simply because the article does not comply strictly with the language minimum requirements for any other more reputable* Journals.

How about: "Many times, great articles are published in more peripheral journals, simply because the article does not comply strictly with the minimum language requirements of more reputable journals."?

Spite all the work is properly done, explained, and demonstrated both graphically and mathematically.

"Spite" is not how one starts a sentence (one could consider "In spite"), and again, this is a sentence fragment. Turn it into "This holds, even if the work is [...]"

how can a researcher, in particular a junior (newbie) research,

Is it "a researcher", or "a research"? Pick a lane. Preferably the correct one, but even if you do it wrong, at least be consistent. If you cannot be consistent with language within the same sentence, how can the reviewer trust you to be consistent with the science itself?

how can a researcher, [...], can learn the language requirements for a specific scientific Journal?

There shouldn't be two "can"s.


Reviewers and editors should be reasonably forgiving towards non-native speakers, and the further the authors' first language is from English, the more forgiving reviewers and editors should be. For instance, blaming far-East Asian authors for not knowing how to place articles is not nice, since far-East Asian languages do not have articles. However, this does not absolve authors of papers from the responsibility of writing their papers as well as they possibly can. English isn't my native language either, but I wouldn't dare to submit a paper with the level of English that your question shows.

In the end, the paper is the final product. This is the way in which you present the science, and it is the way in which the wider scientific audience will get to know the science. Hence, if you do not put in the effort to present your science as clearly, correctly, and pleasantly as possible, the audience will not care about your science. You could conceivably wish that the writing wouldn't matter, but it does. Consider either improving your English language skills, or getting external advice from a native English speaker.

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    Those language requirements are a dictionary and a grammar course. You cannot demand from journals to specify the English language for you. Automated tools can help you find some of the errors, but they will never find all; using them is a good start. – Wetenschaap Feb 17 at 11:03
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    You're not arguing in good faith yourself. Multiple people here have now said that you should learn to write well, and you seem to not be willing to accept that or even engage with the thought. Louic and I both point out a connection between sloppiness in writing and sloppiness in the research itself; you seem to simply ignore this point. There is no point on our side in arguing with someone who is not willing to learn; why exactly did you expect any good outcome from asking a question if you're not willing to listen to the answers? – Wetenschaap Feb 17 at 11:09
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    I would modestly point out that not all of us can write very well already in our mother tongue. Often, this is just marginally related to the knowledge of the grammar. In fact, the mistakes found in this question do not seem dictated by speaking a neo-latin tongue. Leaving fragments here and there should be wrong in Portuguese and likely in every language as well, just to give an example. – Alchimista Feb 17 at 12:09
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    @MiguelSilva 'where are those language requirements for me to download and see?' Fowler's dictionary of modern English usage wouldn't be a bad start. However, let's keep in mind that we native English speakers have a certain level of unearned privilege due to our language being dominant in academic publishing, so it might behove us to be a little less robust in the way we deliver our critique of OP's post. – Daniel Hatton Feb 17 at 14:26
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    I am a native English (well, American) speaker. My mother was an English teacher, and worked hard with me up to college, and I could whip out a fine essay for classes. Then I became a grad student and started writing journal articles. That was a whole different ballgame, and I had to completely relearn how to write technical English. It was a lot of work. So, even native English speakers have to learn how to be good writers. The payoff in the end was well received, clear papers that were never rejected. Writing is a skill that has to be learned. – Jon Custer Feb 17 at 15:09
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There is no "checklist" for language requirements. It's up to the editor and reviewer(s) to decide whether your paper can be understood without doubt about what you are trying to convey. When a reader needs to guess what you mean, there is a lot of room for error - something you don't want, especially not in scientific publications.

The minimum language requirements are likely in the area of a C1 level according to the CEFR definition, maybe you get through with a B2. Below that you should probably get some help from a proficient or native English speaker before you submit your manuscripts (or ask the journal for language editing service - many offer these for a fee).

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Please read this FAQ before posting another comment. We can only move comments to chat once, and further comments not relevant to this answer will be deleted without notice. – Massimo Ortolano Feb 20 at 15:46
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Journal editors know very well that most researchers' native language is not English, and that their language skill is not necessarily related to the quality of the research (many editors are non-native speakers themselves).

But editors and reviewers do not wish to "guess" what you mean or spend extra time deciphering non-English sentence constructs. It is expected that you put in the effort to make the paper ready for publication. Besides good science and good figures that also includes clear and (mostly) correct English.

If your English or writing skill in general is not good enough this is understandable, but you should seek help to improve the article before submitting the paper. By doing so you will also get better at it.

A paper is a bit like a CV: if it looks sloppy and full of errors, people do not want to read it. Also, in my experience as a reviewer, authors who did not bother to provide a paper with decent figures and (mostly) correct English were usually equally sloppy in their research.

Two excellent comments also give a partial answer to your question:

  • @user2768: Don't learn some particularly journal's requirements: Learn to write well
  • @henning: Language requirements don't differ so much between journals. Not enough, anyway, to make this a criterion for choosing a journal to submit your manuscript to.
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  • Well, spite your answer being more elaborated and long, it answers little to my question. the fact is as I commented above, Journals are limiting themselves by valuing too much minimum language requirements when compared to good and sound experimental results presented on the document. This question is one many Portuguese researchers have when commenting about this issue. – Miguel Silva Feb 17 at 10:55
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    Again, my question still is, let me rephrase it, where can I find the language requirements "checklist" for a particular Journal? – Miguel Silva Feb 17 at 10:58
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    @MiguelSilva: I don't mean to be rude, but the language you use here is already hard to understand in parts. So this is likely going to be an issue with any reputable journal you submit to. The quality of your research does not matter if your paper is hard to understand or even ambiguous due to language issues. That's really no different from e.g. using bad figures to present your data. – Peter Feb 17 at 11:21
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While OP improves their English language proficiency (which takes time), they can use a language editing service to guarantee a certain standard of language.

Grammar helper tools are unfortunately not a replacement for a mastery of the language. They often make suggestions that are irrelevant, bending the meaning, or simply do not capture what I have in mind. However, they can help fixing at least some glitches.

The English used in papers is often not very good, but it does not usually have blatant errors. Especially if one is unsure about the language, I recommend simple sentences with fewer options to make mistakes. It does not sound very poetic, but at least reduces the probability of being wrong.

English is in some respect simpler than other languages in that the conspicuous lack of declination/conjugation is replaced by a rigid word order for certain classes. Get some English grammar templates that show this word order and keep them beside your writing implements. Example:

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/adjectives-order

In an unclear situation, try to google similar sentence structures and see whether they appear anywhere. This will slow down your writing, but improve your confidence that what you write is correct.

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  • I liked your "solution". Apart from the common spelling and grammar errors, this is still a pressing issue and something that needs to be addressed since there are many different ways of writing in English. The international English, The UK English, The US, ... and is increasing every year (recently added to the list the "spanglish" as is commonly referred in Spain, btw, the one you're reading here is from Portugal ). – Miguel Silva Feb 17 at 13:09

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