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In one of the reviews I received from a journal on a paper I sent there, there was a complaint that the paper contained a lot of language mistakes, so serious, that they change meaning of phrases. But no examples of such mistakes were provided.

I am not claiming that language in the paper was perfect, though the paper had been reviewed before submission by four different people (PhD's) with a good level of English and also by a native English speaker (not a scientist though).

I am confused about this quite strong statement about the paper's language despite the reviewer having perfectly understood almost all the ideas in the paper.

Just wondering: is it really typical for reviewers to point out language mistakes in reviews in this way? a (P.S. Just in case, I am very grateful to the reviewer for his or her very valuable suggestions on other formal mistakes and for giving me some new ideas).

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – aeismail Sep 4 '17 at 16:57
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    I think the original text of this question is relevant to understanding the answers. – Jessica B Sep 5 '17 at 6:04
  • Looks like this my question appeared to be a trigger for starting an explicit persecution of myself: everybody wants to proof that my knowledge of English is miserable. That all is disgusting. I wish never appear in this web-site again. Just remember: some day not English, but some other language could become dominating in scientific publications. – user70829 Sep 5 '17 at 10:07
  • Both in your manuscript and here, your response to comments about your English skills have been to attack the commenters and ignore the substance. This approach is not going to end well for you. – iayork Sep 5 '17 at 13:09
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    We're trying to help you, and you're taking it as an attack. That's the approach that's not going to end well for you. – iayork Sep 5 '17 at 13:29
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If a reviewer has problems to follow the arguments and feels that this is due to the use of English, they usually include this in the review. Unfortunately, it is sometimes hard to pinpoint exactly what is unclear about the language, but a good reviewer should make some effort to help the authors. On the other hand, if the overall recommendation will be "reject" many reviewers do not invest the time to write down all unclear/wrong/misleading formulations. Note that a good reviewer may still follow your arguments although the language may be quite misleading (by just knowing what you are trying to show and correcting the wording while reading).

So you may ask for clarification (and I find this a reasonable request), but you should not expect to get an answer if the paper has been rejected anyway.

  • " Note that a good reviewer may still follow your arguments although the language may be quite misleading..." - fair enough. But providing just one or two examples of such "severe language mistakes" - isn't it mandatory because otherwise this statement about mistakes looks quite unreasonable. – user70829 Sep 4 '17 at 12:36
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    Agreed that this would reasonable, but sometime this just does not happen (unfortunately). And there is nothing "mandatory" here as the editor should form their opinion based on the reviews. They may just follow the other criticism of the reports without relying on the language argument. – Dirk Sep 4 '17 at 12:39
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A paper written in English in a reputable journal should be written in correct English. It is the responsibility of the author to make sure of that. Not the referee, not the editor.

See a related question here: Is poor English grammar and writing style overlooked in otherwise strong math paper submissions?

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The OP took what should have been effective precautions against English mistakes in the paper: review by four different people (PhD's) with a good level of English and also by a non-scientist native English speaker. Those, rather than journal reviewers, are the people who should be pointing out specific problems and improvements.

Given the original version of the question, I would expect the OP's English writing to need some editing before being submitted as a finished paper. It is possible the people the OP asked to review the paper were being too polite and felt inhibited from pointing out changes that should have been made before the article was submitted.

The OP needs to find ways to positively encourage them to suggest edits. If one of them makes a suggestion, thank them graciously and use it, so that they will know their suggestions really are welcome.

It might be good to have at least one co-author with good English writing skills, with a track record of publications in English, and ask that person to do a grammar and style edit before submission.

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