Once more the old chestnut:

“ … please have the manuscript proof-read by a native English-speaking expert in the field.”

I dislike this recurring comment, for the following reasons:

  1. English is my first language (L1). I don’t like being referred to as a “native” of any culture or place ; for me that suggests a nationalistic understanding of identity which is a way of thinking about human beings that I reject.
  2. “Native speaker” ist not a sufficient qualification for editing a scientific manuscript well. The fact that English is my L1 has made it easier for me, no doubt, to learn to write at a professional level, but didn’t save me all the study and practice I needed to do it as well as I do now. Way back (24 years ago) when I ended my research career, I was already an L1 English speaker and already had some experience as a scientific author and often helped colleagues with their manuscripts, but when I read my papers from back then now, I see plenty of things in the writing that I would improve.
  3. “Native speaker” is not a necessary qualification for being able to write and edit professionally. My Austrian wife writes stuff that I can only find rare and tiny mistakes in. Joseph Conrad the novelist, ever heard of him? Which language did he become famous in? His FIFTH. Possibly his sixth. (Polish, French, Ukrainian, Russian and German being the others).
  4. The “native speaker” comment is regularly issued just because the authors seem to be “foreign”. I once got it on one of my own papers. It gave my boss a chuckle. But as I don’t have an obviously English-looking name, I suppose someone thought we were all Austrians. Funny thing is, the great-grandfather who brought that name to Ireland was from … wait for it … England.
  5. “A native English speaking expert in the field” sounds like what the reviewer is suggesting is that some English-speaking colleague will do it. Let me tell you, pal, I’ve been that colleague. I spent weeks and months writing and correcting stuff – time I was being paid to be working in the lab, but wasn’t. Professional editing isn’t a hobby. It’s a job worth doing, and it should be worth paying for. Which, to be clear, the client who ordered the work on this particular manuscript doe
  6. So what should you say, Reviewer #2? How about “Would it be possible to have the manuscript professionally edited for coherence and language?” But before you even ask that: do feel free to ask yourself if you’re just being a peevish git, or whether there really is some specific work needed to make the paper intelligible.

If scientists in general were able to articulate their perceptions of text quality a bit more concretely, we could be a lot further with this stuff.

I’m not the only one who doesn’t like this. Hat tip to …