Background: The acceptance rate of non-mother English tongue authors is generally a lot lower than for native English tongue authors. Obviously the scientific quality of an article is the principal reason for publication. However, is editorial rejection purely on scientific grounds? English mother tongue writers publish more than non mother-tongue writers - so are editors discriminating linguistically? We therefore decided to survey language errors in manuscripts submitted for publication to Cardiovascular Research (CVR). Method: We surveyed language errors in 120 medical articles which had been submitted for publication in 1999 and 2000. The language 'error' categories were divided into three principal groups: grammatical, structural and lexical which were then further sub-divided into key areas. The articles were corrected without any knowledge of the author's nationality or the corrections made by other language researchers. After an initial correction, a sample of the papers were cross-checked to verify reliability. Results: The control groups of US and UK authors had an almost identical acceptance rate and overall 'error' rate indicating that the language categories were objective categories also for the other nationalities. Although there was not a direct relationship between the acceptance rate and the amount of language errors, there was a clear indication that badly written articles correlated with a high rejection rate. The US/UK acceptance rate of 30.4% was higher than for all the other countries. The lowest acceptance rate of 9% (Italian) also had the highest error rate. Discussion: Many factors could influence the rejection of an article. However, we found clear indications that carelessly written articles could often have either a direct or subliminal influence on whether a paper was accepted or rejected. On equal scientific merit, a badly written article will have less chance of being accepted. This is even if the editor involved in rejecting a paper does not necessarily identify language problems as a motive for rejection. A more detailed look at the types and categories of language errors is needed. Furthermore we suggest the introduction of standardised guidelines in scientific writing.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine