All writers require some form of editing at some point in their writing project. If they decide to compose a personal statement for admission to medical school or a research dissertation, a second set of eyes is necessary for every instance. Sometimes, however, editing can be imperative to ensure clear communication and language accessibility. One such situation is in the case of writers for whom English is their second language (ESL).

ESL writers are skilled individuals possessing a language knowledge base spanning at least two languages, often even more. With such an expansive understanding of languages, however, there are often minor mistakes that can inadvertently appear, rendering portions of a project somewhat unclear or confusing. It is simply due to the complex nature of the English language and all of its quirks and idiosyncrasies. Therefore, professional editing assistance can be especially efficient and useful to writers for whom English is not their native language.

An ESL writer should be aware that several common mistakes can inadvertently crop up in one’s writing. Professional editors, like those at, are well attuned to these common errors in ESL writing. They deftly approach each project looking for just these types of issues. Errors are common when writing articles and prepositions. Below are a couple examples:

One example is the use of articles (and we’re not talking research and reading!). The words “a,” “an,” and “the” are quite important in the English language, but they can be confusing. “The” is a definite article that you can use when referring to something specific. “A” and “an,” indefinite articles, are used in the same way, but are only interchangeable based on the first letter of the word they’re introducing.

Editing for ESL Writers: Articles and Prepositions

Also, once you’ve used the indefinite article (“a” or “an”) to introduce something, you can use “the” after that because both reader and writer know which item they are discussing (object, person, place, etc.). Interestingly, there are many times when no article at all is necessary, such as when speaking in general terms. All of these variations can be confusing enough for those writers who are native English speakers, so it’s no wonder an ESL writer would need an editor’s review for these!

Another tricky area is the use of prepositions. There are more than 100 prepositions in the English language; one can use many of them interchangeably. But which preposition is the appropriate preposition can be tricky to determine for someone who does not natively speak or write in English. An English editor, however, is quite familiar with the appropriate and shared usage of prepositions and prepositional phrases. He or she can quickly correct any prepositional errors.

These are just two examples of parts of the English language that can be confusing or tricky for an ESL writer. Any writer, however, shouldn’t have to spend their time dwelling on these types of specific language peculiarities, particularly when there are great editors available to provide assistance! If you are writing in English, but it is not your mother tongue, know that you can trust a professional editor to polish and perfect your written English, ensuring it is clear and easy to understand.

Originally posted 2/13/2011 and happily updated 10/25/2017. Thanks for reading!

Not sure what YOU really need?

Get Professional Help

Get a free editing sample outlining areas you need to fix before publishing. Discover what works!

Enter your email to subscribe to our newsletter, get free advice and connect with other authors.
I am an author of:  
My email: