1. RainbowWarrior
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    RainbowWarrior Member

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    British vs American

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by RainbowWarrior, Mar 29, 2013.

    my main character was born in America, but grew up in Britain.
    The first six or so chapters are in Britain, but she returns to America and spends the rest of the series there.
    im British, so naturally i've been writing like a British person.

    should i switch to American style? for example changing words like 'motorway' to 'highway'?

    should i stay with British style while she's in Britain, and then change to American once she gets there?
     
  2. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Keep the British style. We would know what she meant by 'motorway' by the time she gets to America. Since she grew up in Britain, she would be talking like a British person with their slang and dialect. It'd be realistic, to be honest, that she doesn't completely do a 180 and start using American slang if she never grew up there.
     
  3. RainbowWarrior
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    RainbowWarrior Member

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    thank you! i forgot to say that its in first person
     
  4. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    No. You should use the difference to the stories advantage: your character will be slightly out of phase with the rest of the characters--people will keep asking her what she meant by "Car Park" thinking she is referring to a large grassy area where cars can have pick-nicks and play football.

    Americans say "Parking Lots"


    See what I mean...? There are lots of those things.

    Although I would think about having the whole of the narration semi-neutral ( between the British and American styles) so that there is some constancy between the two parts.
     
  5. RainbowWarrior
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    RainbowWarrior Member

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    yea.....thanks! and maybe i can generate a bit of humor out of it! :D
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    good advice given here re not switching, since if you did it would make no sense and only confuse the reader...
     
  7. Simmy1993
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    Simmy1993 Member

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    Aye, as the others say do not switch but perhaps transition. Show that despite her British upbringing she's slowly picking up the lingo. Although as you say, there's a lot of room for that classic trans-Atlantic confusion of, "I'll have some chips." Then they get handed a bag of crisps and look so disheartened. Speaking from person experience here.
     
  8. tinylittlepixie
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    tinylittlepixie Member

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    I'd keep the British vocabulary. If the character grew up in Britain, I don't think that they would change they're whole approach to language just to fit in with those around them. In fact, I would use this as a point of identity, in that the character can use this as a key difference to define themselves.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Never mind the story - what is your target market? Write the dialect of English that fits your target market. For dialogue, use the same dialect except for words that don't exist in the other dialect.

    Most of the spelling differences are inaudible. Establish accent in the narrative, not by the spelling.

    Will it be awful if you use American spelling for an American character when the rest of the book is in UK English? Frankly, no, especially if you remain consistent. But your target market won't even notice if you keep the dialogue spelling consistent with the narrative, and you don't want them noticing the spelling. You want them to stay focused on the story.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    not 'awful' perhaps, but certainly would be silly, since there's no good reason for doing so, unless the word is on a sign... changing the spelling in narrative and dialog would be nonsensical and would definitely result in a lot of eye-rolling among agents and publishers...
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, I'd go with silly. I'm not sure how agents and submissions editors would receive it, and certainly the safe option in that regard is to stick to one dialect throughout.
     
  12. cazann34
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    cazann34 Active Member

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    I have a friend who left Britain to live in America she's been in the States for seven years now. She still clings onto her British roots (but she does say closet and not wardrobe and mall instead of shopping centre etc.) while her children have taken on board the American ways of speaking. What I'm trying to say is: at first your character would carry on saying things like motor way and such but she would soon stop using these words if they wanted people to understand them. How fast this would happen would depend on the characters age. If they are children it could take a few months, an adult might even be years.
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think anyone is saying that characters shouldn't employ dialect in the sense of word choices. But spelling and punctuation should follow the conventions of your target marlet. If you are contemplating a publisher that sells in amixed market, you still should choose one and use it throughout.

    Inconsistency doesn't look clever. It just looks sloppy.

    One notable exception: If you directly "quote" a visual medium, such as a letter or a chat room excerpt, capture the character's spelling and punctuation, including mistakes.
     

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