I've noticed that my advisor (non-native) sometimes makes minor spelling/grammatical errors in academic papers. I believe this is due, in part, to the fact that until very recently, nobody in the lab was a native speaker.

Is there a way that I can bring this to my advisor's attention professionally? I would like to also let him know that I'd be happy to proofread any of his papers prior to submission, if he would like. Obviously, I make mistakes as well, so I'm sure I will make similar errors at some point in publications, but I would always want someone to point it out to me.

Edit: I should note that I have no intention of trying to correct his spoken or informal English.

  • 8
    Trust me you do not want to read and proofread your advisor's papers unless you are a co-author, let him deal with the issue, he/she should have enough experience to know better. Oct 25, 2016 at 12:58
  • Note that minor spelling and grammar errors are not really an issue if the article is otherwise well written. Especially if it's unambiguous and uses the appropriate vocabulary.
    – Cape Code
    Oct 25, 2016 at 13:23
  • If I know a student or co-author has better English than me, then I'm more than happy to oblige. I am also happy if someone corrects any careless mistakes. The main issue: do I respect the other person's command of the English language? Note, native speakers can write very poorly, especially academic writing. Here, if you think you are 'better', you might not, and hence, annoys your supervisor. Choose your actions carefully. :) Oct 26, 2016 at 0:18

3 Answers 3


I am not a native speaker either and it is not unusual for non-native speakers to have some more minor issues as you suggested. I think that telling your advisor that you are interested to read more about the topic that they are working on, asking for the paper and providing some feedback about grammar and what need to be clarified should be welcomed by them.

However, if the person is sensitive and easily offended, I would try to stay away unless I am specifically asked to do that task!


Some non-native speakers of English are eager to improve their English and grateful for corrections. Others have, unfortunately, a very different attitude. Ahmad correctly suggests caution if your adviser is easily offended, but it may be difficult to determine whether he's easily offended. So I'd suggest beginning with just one of your adviser's errors, perhaps a spelling error where it's easy to check in a dictionary that it really is an error. See how he reacts to that before correcting more errors.


Is there a way that I can bring this to my advisor's attention professionally?


More specifically, tell him that you think you've found some minor English grammar issues and ask him politely and carefully whether he would be interested in feedback. If you don't get a clear "yes", forget it.

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