A colleague working in my department helped me out in proofreading my English before submitting a paper. I would like to acknowledge his help.
Is it common to acknowledge such help? Is there any standard sentence to do it?
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First, I disagree with the answer(s) suggesting the proof-reader be acknowledged generally for contribution to the paper, since that gives the false impression that they contributed scientifically. That would be a misrepresentation of the facts, and also puts some limited responsibility on them for the contents of the paper if not beyond that.
For "mere" proof-reading - it's a question of the degree of contribution. In a typical case of finding typos and a few comments about style, I would buy that person lunch, not put them on the paper. But if my English was weak and the proofreading contribution is significant, then yes, by all means, that person can be acknowledged - for proofreading (but ask them first if they want to be mentioned).
If it's a thesis or a book I'd be more lenient with acknowledgements, even for a little proofreading help; and doing so is pretty common.
I would like to thank @InkBlot for his constructive criticism on the manuscript of this post.
Yes, it is common, fair and sometimes compulsory to acknowledge your funding agency and everyone who somehow contributed but does not qualify as an author, such as the case you mention (proofreading).
Check the journal/conference you are submitting to and stick to the same format. Most articles have a final (unnumbered) section called Acknowledgments just before the References. If not, you are free to add it.
The best acknowledgment is simple, straightforward, and honest.
In the case of proofreading, it is common to write: "Thanks to John Smith for proofreading the article". Everyone in the domain knows what proofreading means, so there is no need to be creative or misleading about it.
More tips here: http://www.aje.com/en/arc/editing-tip-writing-acknowledgments/
I must concur with Thumbtackthief: including a sentence like ‘A sincere thank you to John Smith for his diligent proofreading of this paper / the manuscript / this article / ...’ seems like the way to go. I've seen similar formulae in lots of scientific books, theses, articles and so on, so this way of giving credit seems to be quite common. Also, as Fábio says, don't forget to offer them all the help you can.
In addition, I have it on good authority that people in the scientific community tend to appreciate chocolate.
No, it is not common. Proofreading is not a scientific contribution. The acknowledgement is about any contributions which might be of scientific importance (funding, comments, etc).
When the paper is accepted in journals published by reputable publishers, it will be corrected by the copy editors. They are usually contract-based, and you do not see their names on the journal.