Scientific English as a Foreign Language

Nancy A Burnham and Frederick L Hutson
Department of Physics
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
100 Institute Road, Worcester MA 01609-2280 USA


These lessons in Scientific English were written for the benefit of our colleagues at the Ecole Polytechic Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, where we were researchers from 1994-1999. As native English speakers, we were beseiged by non-native speakers asking for help with their manuscripts, as many as five requests per week.

Each language group is susceptible to predictable mistakes in English; these lessons were written for our colleagues: French- and German-speaking scientists with a solid foundation in English. They appear in no particular order, having been prompted by typical mistakes that we observed from week to week.

Most lessons are followed by a quiz and a humorous quotation. In their original format, the lessons were emailed with blank spaces in the quizzes so that the subscribers -- the list grew from a dozen to seven hundred -- could test their knowledge before checking their answers at a website. In 2003, the web pages were migrated to http://users.wpi.edu/~nab/sci_eng/. And in 2007, Scott Cogan (Université de Franche-Comté, Besançon, France) kindly transformed them into a LaTeX file, to which we added a table of contents and this abstract.

Although we are now busy with physics education and research in the United States, Fred still occasionally corrects manuscripts and dissertations. You may contact him at flh@wpi.edu.


The compiled lessons in one file, thanks to Scott Cogan:

The individual Scientific-English lessons:


Created 30 April 1998, last updated 29 October 2007