English as a First Language

Sam Jaffe's article, "No Pardon for Poor English in Science"1 should have stressed the reason that poor English in scientific papers is so counterproductive. Whether English is the scientists' second or even first language, they frequently fail to say what they mean. If their results are unclear and their conclusions are inconclusive, their papers fall by the wayside and their lectures go unheeded.

Too often at international conferences, which today are almost always in English no matter what the venue, the only speakers indulging in poor grammar and usage are American scientists. These American scientists need as much help as do their foreign-born colleagues. The difference is that non-Americans recognize their problems with English, while many Americans do not realize (or choose to ignore) their pejoratives of the English language. As a result, they undercut the meaning of their scientific reports.

Nancy Yanes-Hoffman

Interested in reading more?

Magaizne Cover

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!