Brief guide for non-native authors of academic journal articles

Authors of Academic Journals

Academics and researchers often aspire to get their original research work published by a reputable peer-reviewed journal. 

The writing of an academic journal article is a complex process that involves the drafting of the author’s ideas, arguments and findings in sound academic English in accordance with specific in-house style guidelines. 

Scientific journal publishers often provide full details and instructions for authors. 

Several of these instructions are related to content, language and formatting. 

For a non-native speaker of English, it would seem a considerable challenge to meet the strict requirement of journal article publishers, in particular those related to the standard of English. 

This article will provide a brief and handy guide to researchers and academics who are not native English speakers to help them address issues related to English and writing style in their papers. 

Short and clear 

When you write an academic journal article, remember that you are writing to an English readership. Simply, think the way they think and approach your readers in the way they understand it, not the way you prefer or are accustomed to. 

For instance, it is completely acceptable in some cultures to use excessively long sentences (for example, Arabic). 

However, when you write a journal article to publish with a scientific article publisher, the very first key thing you need to ensure is writing in clear and relatively short sentences. 

Writing too long sentences will at least obfuscate your readers and turn them off. Above all, it will signal that you are not following the acceptable style of academic journal writing. 

Takeaway: Keep your sentences short and clear. 

Grammar & tense use

Grammatical errors in a scientific journal article are simply a killer. They indicate that your understanding of the English language is substandard and that your is of poor quality, no matter how excellent your content and ideas are.

One of the benefits of keeping your sentences short and clear – as an ESL author – is that you as such minimise the chances of making a grammatical mistake in your manuscript. 

The longer the sentence the higher the chance you will make grammatical as well as punctuation errors. 

Very connected to grammar is getting your tense right while writing your journal article. 

If you are writing about a study or original research work you have already conducted, do not forget to use the “past tense”. 

For instance: My study aimed at discovering why…etc 

If you are reviewing any literature in your paper, ensure you use the “present simple tense”. 

For instance: Jacob (2012) argues that…etc 

Takeaway: Keep your writing free of grammar mistakes and use tenses correctly across the entire paper. 

Consistency of spelling

Instructions provided by academic article publishers often include information about the required English variant: British, American, Canadian or Australian. 

You need to ensure consistency of spelling throughout your paper. 

The easiest way to get this quite right is by setting the language in your Microsoft Word Document to the required one. As you write, any word that is not consistent should be automatically underlined for you. 

For instance: if you set the proofreading and writing language as British English, the auto-corrector in the paper will underline: 

Organize (American) – British English (organise)

Favor (American) – British English (favour)

Center (American) – British English (centre)

Although the majority of inconsistencies will be spotted by the auto-corrector in the Word Document, there are things that need knowledge of the different English variants.

For instance, the word “lorry” is the British English equivalent of the American English “truck”.

Takeaway: Ensure you are consistent with the English language variant required.


Read the instructions of the scientific or academic journal you want to publish your manuscript with very carefully.

There will be certain sections in these instructions addressing the issue of formatting.

These will cover things like margins, fonts, indentation, line spacing, etc.

You need to ensure these elements are implemented correctly in your journal article before submission.

Takeaway: Read instructions on formatting and implement them correctly.

If you struggle or feel you are still uncertain, because of language fluency, that you got all the elements discussed in this article right, do not hesitate to get in touch with us. 

We will be happy to help with our bespoke and customised journal article proofreading and editing services.