I was asked to review an article written by non-native English speakers. I had never seen this before, but the manuscript includes a link to a certificate from a website called Textcheck that says:

We hereby certify that Textcheck has checked and corrected the English in the manuscript named above.

A specialist editor with suitable professional knowledge (M.Sc. or Ph.D./M.D.) reviewed and corrected the English. An English language specialist subsequently checked the paper again. The first language of both editors is English.

Unfortunately within the first few pages I'm already encountering clauses that make it obvious that this was not done to any depth. The issues are so blatant that even a quick glance by a native English speaker would catch them.

Should I point out major grammatical errors such as these in my review? Should I comment to the authors that they essentially got ripped off by this service (in more polite terms, obviously)? Should I comment to the editorial office?

EDIT: I also see that I can email Textcheck about the article. Should I do that? If so, what should I say/ask?

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    From the Textcheck website (under their "guarantee"): Please note that reviewers' judgment of English is very unreliable. Many reviewers are not native speakers of English, and unfortunately these reviewers often criticize English that is grammatically correct and well written. We hope that our certificate at the end of your document will help to prevent this problem.
    – Kimball
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 4:27
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    @Kimball That takes some serious chutzpah.
    – jakebeal
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 5:35
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    You should consider the possibility that the manuscript could have undergone last-minute changes after the TextCheck service had completed its service. They would not have changed the name and there is no digital signature or hash that would allow you to check that the text has not been altered after TextCheck proofread it. I would not blame anyone, just state that the English is really lousy, possibly add these two and two more examples, and have the authors sort it out with TextCheck.
    – Alexander
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 7:48
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    The plus side is that if Textcheck continue to attach this certificate to poor English, eventually it will become widely known that they are nothing but fraudsters. Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 7:49
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    As an anecdotal side note: a colleague once told me of a review they did of a paper, also written by authors without native fluency in English. They found and pointed out a number of grammatical errors, and offered full, grammatically correct versions for the authors' free use. A detailing of why the grammar was incorrect, and what the correct grammar rules were, was even included! When the authors submitted a corrected manuscript, absolutely none of the grammatical revisions were made. That reviewer lost their taste for offering such grammatical precision as a result. Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 0:39

3 Answers 3


You should not email Textcheck about the article. The journal review process should be confidential, and you should not take the liberty to violate it. You should put the quality of the writing in your review. If it's still bad even after review by this company, then those are the breaks. It sounds like it still needs some help.

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    And explicitly mention in the review that you are a native speaker and that you are aware the authors used the service. I'd go as far as advising the authors not to use that particular service again, since it clearly falls well short of what one would expect in a professional copy-editing service. Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 7:43
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    @SteveJessop, I'm not talking about the author breaking the blinding to find out who the reviewer is nor the reviewing breakind double-blinding to find the author (though those are also relevant concerns), I'm talking about the confidentiality associated with the fact that these authors have a paper under review with this journal at all. A reviewer should not take it on their own initiative to break that by letting an external party know. Everyone involved has a responsibility to try to maintain the integrity of the process.
    – Bill Barth
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 20:41
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    @BillBarth: sure, I'm just noting that publicly posting extracts from a work under review is already a breach of confidentiality, separate from the breach you're advising the questioner not to make. Hopefully that doesn't matter in this case, by itself, since nothing significant about the paper has been given away. But specifically doing so with your name attached risks reviewer anonymity. Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 20:45
  • @SteveJessop, oh yeah! That's a great point. He might want to edit that to anonymize and paraphrase the style.
    – Bill Barth
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 21:05
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    @SteveJessop you probably want to remove that comment then, since the excerpt is still googleable from the text in your comment
    – Some_Guy
    Commented Oct 14, 2016 at 13:07

I agree with Bill's advice from the previous post. If you email Textcheck then they will come up with some argument proving that they did a correct job, and moreover it's not you who paid them, so it's better that the person who paid them should contact them if required.

You should just indicate that the English used in the manuscript is sub-standard and can not be accepted in the present format. Though, this does not necessarily mean that you reject the manuscript. If you find that the scientific content is good enough then maybe you should indicate accept with major revision.

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    "If you find that the scientific content is good enough then may be you should indicate accept with major revision". True, but sometimes it is really hard to judge on the scientific content when you can't hardly understand what it is said...
    – ddiez
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 10:14
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    True!! But if you have been asked to review a paper then for sure if not an expert, you still know enough about the type of work under consideration and hence you would easily be able to evaluate via figures and the confusing text the quality of science. Moreover if the author of this question has done the effort to post this question here, then it already shows the indication that the current manuscript has problems mainly in english only, otherwise it would have been rejected on the first instance only!!!
    – Saurabh
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 10:23
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    @ddiez The examples given in the question suggest that the scientific content is understandable, despite the bad English. Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 10:46
  • Absolutely true Saurabh and David. I was only pointing out that possibility regarding the quoted comment, which can be interpreted more generally than in the context of the OP question.
    – ddiez
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 13:11
  • @ddiez. You have made some grammatical mistakes in your comments above. e.g., "...what it is said" should be "what it says".
    – CKM
    Commented Apr 3, 2016 at 3:58

Just express your opinion, try and be objective and don't worry about what does not depend on you.

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