I work at the writing center on campus, and a lot of multilingual students come in every day for help. Many times English isn’t their first language, and they want to know how to write exactly like native English speakers. ESL (English as a second language) writers are a huge topic of study in writing center research. When students are learning to read and write English, they don’t always understand the cultural differences of English writing right off the bat. Sometimes I’ll be working with an ESL writer who will ask me if a certain phrase or sentence they wrote is correct. They might say something like, “I was in the store yesterday.” Some people might say this is wrong, and that the phrase should be “at the store.” But is saying in really “wrong”?
At the writing center we would say no, and we explain why. Although sometimes there are expectations of how English writing should “look,” those expectations don’t have to met in order for meaning to be clear. Just as people (ESL writers or not) speak with their own accents, they also write with an “accent.” Writing center researchers believe that these accents should be celebrated and not suppressed. It can be difficult when professors don’t understand or agree with this idea, and ultimately they are the authority in the classroom, not us. Still, your writing style is your own, and you shouldn’t have to apologize for it, as long as it gets the job done. If it doesn’t, then it’s time to make an appointment at the writing center. 🙂