ESL academics can utilize English editing services to help sort through language issues when preparing their books. Here, we discuss the 10 most common mistakes that are reported by English editing services when they edit books written by ESL academics.
- The Misuse or Omission of Articles
ESL writers commonly misuse or omit definite (the) and indefinite (a/an) articles. Indefinite articles (a/an) are used with a noun that is not specified. In general, you use ‘a’ before nouns that begin with a consonant and ‘an’ before nouns that begin with a vowel. ‘The’ is the only definite article in the English language and is used before singular or plural nouns and adjectives that are familiar or specified to the writer or reader.
- Serial Comma Usage
A serial comma is a comma that is placed immediately before the coordinating conjunction (usually an ‘and’ or ‘or’) in a series that lists three or more items. For example, “On my vacation I visited, France, Germany, and England” (the comma after Germany is the serial comma). In contrast, this can be written, “On my vacation I visited, France, Germany and England” (in this case, the serial comma is missing). It is up to the writer to decide whether to use a serial comma or not. The common mistake made by ESL academics is that they use both conventions in one book, which is not proper. The comma usage in the book should be consistent.
- Too Many Coordinating Conjunctions
ESL writers often use two or more coordinating conjunctions (and, but, if, or) in one sentence. Most of the time an editor will split the sentence into two or three separate sentences. Consider reviewing your sentence to see if you can do the same.
- Misuse of ‘which’ and ‘that’
It is common for ESL academics to misuse the terms ‘which’ and ‘that.’ In general, ‘that’ should be used when the information being added is necessary to understand the sentence. In contrast, ‘which’ should be used when the information being added is not required to understand the sentence, and remember, if you use a statement that begin with ‘which’ it should be offset with commas.
- Misplaced Adverbs
Adverbs are words that modify verbs, such as quickly or slowly. A common mistake in ESL academic writing is to place the adverbs far away from the verbs they modify. This leads to confusion.
- Inconsistency in British vs US English Style Writing
ESL academic writers often interchange between UK and US English spelling, i.e. they spell some words in the British style and others in the American. It is important to write in the appropriate style for your audience and to remain consistent.
- Wrong Word Order
Most English sentences conform to the word order of subject, verb, and object. ESL writers will often confuse this order because, usually, it is the opposite of their native language.
- Subject-verb Agreement
A singular subject requires a singular verb, and a plural subject needs a plural verb. This is often confused in ESL writing.
- The Wrong Preposition
Prepositions are connecting words and are generally used to connect a noun or pronoun to another word in a sentence. ESL writers often choose the wrong word to connect the words in their sentences.
- Verb Tense Consistency
In general, the verb tense should be consistent throughout a sentence and paragraph. ESL writers have a tendency to use different tenses in the same sentence, which causes confusion.