When does helping become cheating
February 3, 2012 2:31 AM   Subscribe

How much help is too much help when it comes to a friend's application to an accountancy training programme?

A friend is applying for entry-level training programmes within various accountancy firms. Her English language skills are advanced, but not quite fluent. Her comprehension is great, but while her speaking and writing are always clear and effective, she makes frequent minor grammatical errors. She has asked me to review her applications with a view to checking if she's including the kinds of things that employers are looking for--she hasn't specifically asked me to check her grammar, but the applications contain several small mistakes. Should I provide corrections for each of the errors, let them stand so as not to provide employers with a misleading picture of her level of fluency, or steer a middle course? Any guidance (especially from those who process applications of this kind) would be most welcome. . . .
posted by muhonnin to Work & Money (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Help your friend.

Even if you had some sort of obligation toward these firms (which it seems to me that you don't) mistakes in grammar are hardly relevant for accountancy openings.
posted by pompomtom at 2:35 AM on February 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

I don't think proof-reading her application is really any different than doing the same for a friend whose first language is English; I've always understood the whole concept of "proofreading" to include ALL errors, whether they're spelling, grammar or punctuation.

Help your friend, show her ALL errors and help correct them.
posted by easily confused at 3:01 AM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

I see little difference in YOU helping her or a sophisticated word processing program helping her. I want to hire someone with not just the grammer skills, but the wisdom to seek guidance and support when necessary.
posted by HuronBob at 3:37 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Think about it this way - there are other people competing for this job who have English skills like your friend's who are *not* having anyone proofread their application materials. She deserves to have an edge over these people, because she has sought out help! And in the unlikely event her English is so bad that it disqualifies her for the job, they'll find out thirty seconds into the first phone interview.
posted by mskyle at 4:05 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

This isn't some kind of artificial school environment where she's agreed to an honor code forbidding outside help? In the business world proofreading is normal and expected. Not having a proofreader would be cause for concern.
posted by anaelith at 4:17 AM on February 3, 2012

I can understand your concerns - as a professional proof-reader / editor who works on academic texts with a lot of non-native English speakers, I make sure that I tell them what they have got wrong and help them learn how to correct it, rather than simply making the corrections for them. That way, ownership and authorship remain with them, their abilities should improve, and I feel I am working ethically.

I have some blog posts about plagiarism and ethics - memail me if you'd like a link, as I don't want to look like I'm touting for hits when I just popped by to help!
posted by LyzzyBee at 5:02 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

If her submission is specifically a grammar test, proofreading her application is cheating. If it's an application, however, it's just being a good friend.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:15 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Teach her how to proofread it herself, sort of like LyzzyBee suggests.
posted by gjc at 7:28 AM on February 3, 2012

Thanks very much for all your responses. I will make the corrections and try to provide guidance about the reasons behind them. A full crash course in English grammar is probably beyond my ability to impart, but I can highlight a few of the most frequently repeated errors.
posted by muhonnin at 8:37 AM on February 3, 2012

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