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Why manuscripts at beginner, elementary, and pre-intermediate levels of English are not suitable for editing

The English text or English translation produced by a person with low English proficiency will contain many unclear sentences (typically every third sentence). An editor will try to correct or clarify the unintelligible sentences. He or she will correctly revise some sentences, offer several versions of a sentence (through comments) where one version is correct, misunderstand some unclear sentences, or fail to propose a correct version of the sentence. Thus, most (but not all) of such sentences can be corrected successfully, and their intended meaning will be recovered by the editing.

Unfortunately, this kind of text will also contain as many sentences that are easy to understand, but their meaning is incorrect or inaccurate. The editor will improve grammar but will not notice the problems with meaning. Perhaps if he/she is highly proficient in this field of research, the editor will correct the meaning in some of these sentences. Thus, after the editing, the manuscript will still contain numerous sentences (typically every third sentence) where meaning is wrong or inaccurate even if the editor is a genius. Therefore, editing cannot fully correct beginner level English, and the translation will have to be redone from scratch. Sorry, your time and effort have been wasted.

Many large editing companies will gladly take your money and edit beginner level English. What they should do instead is turn down the order and recommend redoing the translation with the help of a coauthor or interpreter who is more proficient in English. Another problem with large editing companies is that they accept all incoming orders, even if there is not enough man-hours to fulfill these orders. As a consequence, these companies experience several periods of overload per year when the quality of editing is dismal. What they should do instead is to tell clients politely that “we cannot accept this order within the next week because all our editors are busy.”

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