Ten Most Common English Editing Mistakes Made by ESL Academics

Proofreading and Copyediting one’s own work is a difficult task in itself. It becomes even harder when you are writing in a second language and need to spot the language mistakes as well as the typos. Here we look at the ten mistakes that ESL writers are most likely to miss while they are editing their research papers. If you edit your paper, perform a though check for missed errors as mentioned below:


Commas are tough to get right even for native speakers of English, and even harder for a non-native speaker trying to get the rhythm of academic English right. Look out for comma splices and missing commas in particular.
2. Informal tone

Academics who are writing in English as their second language often slip into a less formal tone, using colloqualisms and contractions. Watch out for cliches and colloquial phrases when editing.

3. Commonly confused spellings

Certain words in English are very similar in their verb and noun forms, so errors in their usage are common and hard to spot. The most common are (verb/noun) affect/effect, advise/advice and practise/practice. Make sure you are using the right one!

4. I.e. and e.g.

Latin abbreviations bring a third language into editing academic writing. I.e. is short for the Latin id est and translates to “that is.” i.e. is used when you want to restate or clarify the preceding sentence. E.g. is short for exempli gratia and means “for example.” e.g is used when you want to give an example. If in doubt, use the English forms.

5. Which and that

Getting “which” and “that” usage right will make your writing much clearer and more readable. In general, “that” is used when the information following is vital to the sentence as a whole. “Which”, on the other hand, is used when the information is supplementary and could be removed without impacting the overall sentence. A comma should be placed before “which”, but not “that”.
6. Semicolons

Semicolons are one of the most challenging aspects of English grammar. The most important thing to remember is that they cannot be used in the place of commas and cannot be replaced by commas. Semicolons are used stylistically to separate two independent but related clauses and for nothing else. If in doubt, avoid them!

7. Between and among

Another usage error that is rarely noticed during English editing by ESL academics is the confusion of “between” and “among”. “Between” is used when you are talking about a choice or relationship between specific individual items. “Among” is used when you are talking about an indistinct group or collection of items.

8. Subject-verb agreement

Probably the most common error that is corrected by English language editors is subject-verb agreement in English. In general, a sentence should have an “s” on either the verb or the subject noun. Usually, if the noun is plural, it will end in the letter “s” but the verb will have no “s”. If the noun is singular, it will have no “s” but the verb will.
9. Gendered words

Many languages are gendered in form, or tend to use masculine pronouns for general terms. In academic English, this is seen as being informal and biased. English editors will often replace a “he” or “she” that is used generically with the gender neutral plural “their.”

10. Form/From

“From” and “form” demonstrate why ESL academics should never rely on an automated spellchecker to notice errors in English usage. These are many similar looking words that are regularly missed during editing and which a spellchecker will never pick up as being wrong. Keep an eye out for such easily mistaken words!

Stepping out and using English Editing Services, right at the beginning of edits to eliminate the errors left behind due to non-editing experience, is a good approach to successful publication.


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