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Editor,

Of the 74 nursing journals currently indexed in the Journal Citation Report, all but two are published in English (Polit & Northam 2001). However, less than 5 percent of the total world population speak English as their first language (Lewis 2009).

Most nurses who write for international journals are non-English speakers and rely on translation and editing to bridge the gap. However, most translators specialise in the field of translation, not in nursing and medicine, and consequently, may not be familiar with nursing and research-related terminology. Many non-English authors spend a great deal of money having their manuscripts translated. Yet a frequent result is that the submitted manuscripts are rejected because of the ‘poor English writing quality’, a common sentence that appears in many journals' decision letters.

I am a PhD student in nursing and a self-employed Persian-to-English translator and editor. When editing translated manuscripts, I encounter many instances of wrong translation or inappropriate lexical choices. For example, consider the following inappropriately translated terms and expressions with their correct equivalents in parenthesis: conscious consent (informed consent); qualifying individuals (eligible individuals); pre-awareness (prognosis); sex problems (gender issues); initial prevention (primary prevention); self-sufficiency (self-efficacy); micro-scale (sub-scale); concentration of the study (focus of the study); and check-up wards (outpatient settings).

This problem is not limited just to our country. Recently, at the scientific writing session of an international workshop, the Editor-in-Chief of an international journal mentioned that non-English authors from all over the world have the same problem. Journal editors commonly recommend that authors have a native English speaker edit the manuscript. However, a large number of the authors are Master or PhD students required to publish in an international journal as a pre-requisite for graduation. Obviously, they cannot afford the cost of repeated translations and/or editions. Based on my experiences, I hereby provide some useful recommendations for non-English authors writing for publication in English:

  • • 
    For your first attempt, consult a scientific writing textbook or an experienced person in the area of nursing research and scientific writing.
  • • 
    In writing your original manuscript, adhere strictly to the Author Guidelines of the intended journal.
  • • 
    Write your manuscript in an elaborately organized manner. Define clear headings and sub-headings for each part and organize the content based on them.
  • • 
    Remember, the writing style of a manuscript is different and usually more formal than a thesis or final report of a research project.
  • • 
    Read the original manuscript aloud [and ask your co-author(s) to do so] to check whether or not it makes sense.
  • • 
    Read the translated manuscript repeatedly [and ask your co-author(s) to do so]. In reading the manuscript, remember the terminology of the study subject matter from the literature.
  • • 
    Ask someone else, preferably an editor from the original language, to read and edit the original manuscript.
  • • 
    If using a translator, remember that they usually, but not always, try to stick to your original writing. To translate your text, they should be able to understand your sentences easily. Therefore, you should try to write short, clear and fluent sentences, and avoid addressing more than one idea in a sentence.
  • • 
    Choose an experienced translator and if possible, a ‘Nurse Translator’.
  • • 
    Translators usually do well in terms of English grammar. Their problem is with nursing and research terminology. Provide them with a page containing the nursing and research-related terms that are common in your manuscript. Furthermore, provide them with the Author Guidelines of the intended journal and a copy of an article similar to your own from the same journal.
  • • 
    Ask the translators to write in short sentences and to avoid using jargon.

Finally, my colleagues and I would be glad to learn from you. Let us know your useful experiences and valuable recommendations in text translation.

References

  1. Top of page
  2. References
  • Lewis, M.P. (2009) Ethnologue: Languages of the World, 16th edn. SIL International, Dallas, TX.
  • Polit, D.F. & Northam, S. (2001) Impact factors in nursing journals. Nursing Outlook, 59, 1828.