We’ve worked with hundreds of clients for whom English isn’t their first language, and we know how confusing English can be, even for native speakers. Writing a dissertation or thesis is daunting enough, but having to do it in a language that might not come easy to you is even harder. Here are some common writing mistakes to watch out for if you're a non-native English speaker.

  1. If you use more than one adjective, there’s often an order they follow: 1) article, 2) judgment, 3) size, 4) shape, 5) age, 6) color, 7) nationality, and 8) material. For instance, the sentence “She bought a pair of cotton blue new pants” sounds incorrect, because the material comes first, and color comes before age. It should be “She bought a pair of new blue cotton pants.”

  2. Use of a thesaurus. A thesaurus can be a great tool if used sparingly and correctly. But if English isn’t your first language, it’s easy to use clunky words that don’t really fit the sentence if you’re using it. Homonyms, or words that are spelled the same but mean different things, are another trap when using a thesaurus for writing when English isn't your first language.

  3. Many times, definite or indefinite articles are missing. For instance, “She moved to apartment today.” Another error is confusing definite or indefinite articles, like “a” and “the.”

  4. Confusion with subject-verb agreement. For example, “The cookies was good,” when it should be “The cookies were good.”

  5. Mixing up the order of words. This one makes a lot of sense, because different languages put words in different orders. If you’re thinking in a different language, it’s only natural to put the words in an order with which you’re familiar.

  6. Using the wrong tense. “I have been to California two years ago.”

  7. Overusing transition words. When two related sentences are together, they usually don’t need a transitional word. For example, “The pizza was hot. Therefore, he burned his tongue.” This can actually be made into one sentence, “The pizza was hot, burning his tongue.”

  8. Overusing conjunctions. Somewhat related to transitional words, many times, non-native English speakers will overuse conjunctions (and, but, if, or) or start sentences with conjunctions. Overly long sentences are discouraged in academic writing in general, and if you find yourself using multiple conjunctions, break the sentence up into several smaller sentences. Try not to start sentences with a conjunction, either.

If you’re struggling with polishing your dissertation because English isn’t your first language (or even if it is!), contact us today! Our editors have years of experience helping non-native English speaking students and working with them to take their work to the next level. We know how hard you’ve worked to get to this point; let us help you reach your goals!


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Dr. Roda and his team at D.E. are the editors for my academic writing. My story with Dr. Roda is that I am a clinical assistant professor at a medical school. To move my career forward I am writing to increase the quantity and quality of my published scholarship. Because my appointment is clinical, all these efforts are on my own time and I have no secretarial help. In these circumstances DE has been supportive in the most essential way. They are available to help with all phases of my writing projects, starting with choosing the best journal, editing drafts, in house peer-review, formatting the citations to those exact specifications, from the latest edition of the APA Publication Manual or the Turabian manual. Finally, they are helpful as I must revise and answer the reviewers in subsequent revisions. For a physician without any administrative resources, DE has helped fill-in all those gaps. Presently, we are working on my second big writing project with DE editors. My first paper with DE as my editors was accepted by the first journal by all the reviewers on the first submission without any recommended editorial changes. As author with more than five years of work with DE editors, I anticipate continued success with these competant and helpful editors.

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