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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Initially I had trouble writing my Project scope for my DBA  as I have an undergraduate in English and an MBA which meant I could write essays at a business report level but not a doctorate level. I reached out to Dr Leach at a Thesis Editor and she spoke with me over the phone several times trying to understand what I needed. She also put together a quick turnaround package as my deadline was very close by. Ultimately, she scheduled an appointment with an editor with many years of experience who guided me back onto the right path. My supervisors at university had only helped me a little but the Thesis Editor team have supported me entirely. I am not only grateful but will be working with Thesis Editor for the entirety of my DBA - the next 4 years. Thank you Dr Leach and thank you to the Thesis Editor team for a wonderful experience.

- Rahil Ghazni MBA , Director of Sanctuary Law and Fast Track Training

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