Publishing tips for non-native English speakers
In this guide we run through some of the key points to consider when submitting to an international publication. We also highlight some of the resources available to support you along the way.
Why submit to an international publication?
Are you interested in wider readership of your work? If your article or teaching case study is accepted, it will be read by a global community, increasing its visibility and the likelihood of it being used or cited.
Our international journals and teaching case study channels are peer reviewed. This means other researchers will invest time in improving your work, increasing its chances of publishing success.
What is an international journal looking for?
The editor wants to see evidence of original research, conducted ethically, with findings that add to the knowledge in your field.
Think about why you would recommend the paper to colleagues. Are there, for example, implications for future research or for practice? It is a good idea to prepare a 50-word statement answering these questions before the writing stage begins. It can also be helpful to discuss your work with experienced academic colleagues.
What should a teaching case study contain?
Case studies and their accompanying teaching notes are used to help students develop their analytical and critical thinking skills. That means it’s important they are well researched, rigorously prepared, instructive and relevant to the needs of students today.
Choosing a submission channel
In the case of journals, it’s really important to look at the aims and scope of the titles in your field to find the best match. If your manuscript is outside the scope of the journal, it is likely the editor will reject it without sending it for peer review. For teaching case studies, we currently have two channels available – find out more on our Publish a teaching case study page
Preparing your manuscript
Write a draft of your teaching case study or paper in whatever English you have – this is much easier than writing it in your own language and then translating it. Don't worry too much about grammar and spelling at this stage.
It’s helpful to look at your target publication channel and others in the same field, to pick up tips on phrasing, nuances, English language.
You may need more 'hands-on' help here, so find someone who can help you express yourself more clearly in English. This is not the same as using a professional editing service (see below). Seek help from a colleague whose English is better than yours, so that they can help you clarify your meaning.
Getting professional help with your English
Once you have an indication of interest from the journal, it’s time to focus on improving the language. If you don’t have colleagues who can help, you can hire a professional language editor. These specialise in helping authors express themselves in clear English.
There are a range of paid services available to choose from. For example, we partner with Editage who can match you with a relevant expert in language support, translation, editing, figure preparation, manuscript formatting, and more. Don’t forget, you’ll need to give the language editor enough time to read and edit your work and do expect some questions along the way. Some language editors will recommend a final edit before submission and they can also support you with any revisions requested by reviewers.
English language resources
Good reference books can be a big help if you are regularly writing in English.
As well as a dictionary, which translates your own language into English, you will also benefit from a good English dictionary. The brand will be determined by your chosen journal’s country of origin.
- If you are writing for an American-based journal, consider buying Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of the English Language, or access the free online Merriam-Webster site
- If you are writing for an Australian or UK-based journal consider buying the Oxford English Dictionary or access the free online Oxford Dictionaries
Practical English Usage, Michael Swan
An alphabetical guide to the most common problems of English grammar
Oxford University Press, 2005 (3rd edition), ISBN-10: 019442099
Oxford Guide to English Grammar
A basic English grammar, organized according to parts of speech, John Eastwood
Oxford University Press, 1994, ISBN-10: 0194313514
Fowler's Modern English Usage, R.W. Burchfield
A more detailed alphabetical guide to English grammar
Oxford University Press, 2004 (3rd edition), ISBN-10: 0198610211
Online resources and apps
Online Writing Lab (OWL) - one of the first Internet writing resources, this site is the work of Purdue University Online Writing Lab and contains some high-quality handouts on a range of subjects from placement of the comma to writing research papers.
University of Toronto Advice on Academic Writing - targets students but contains good advice on logic, style, grammar, etc.
The Writing Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison - again, targets students but provides useful tips on grammar and writing a research paper.
Guide to Grammar and Style, Jack Lynch - easy to check common 'difficult words', e.g. is it alot or a lot?
The Internet Grammar of English - written for undergraduates by the English Department of University College London, but a useful resource for anyone interested in grammar. Also available as an app.
Investing a little time in ensuring your manuscript or case study is easy to follow can really help readers absorb your key messages.
Structure your journal submission
This guide explains the building blocks that are used to construct a journal article and why getting them right can boost your chances of publishing success.
In this guide, we explain what you should look for at the proofing stage.