1. hughesj
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    hughesj Member

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    different spellings

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by hughesj, Jul 29, 2013.

    I recently had a conversation with someone on whether or not to use different spellings to what you are taught in school while writing. I am from Australia and am currently writing a novel that is set in the United States. So I was wondering if i should be using the American spelling for words or the European spelling. Take, for example, Colour vs Color. I wanted to write 'colour' but decided against it since it was set in the US. Any idea on what to do?
     
  2. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    If it's for an American audience then yes, I suggest you stick to their spelling. If, however, it is not your intended audience but is simply just the book's setting, then it's no problem to use your own country's spelling. I've just recently finished a book set in the US, but did not use their spelling, although when they were speaking I would write what they would say e.g. 'Mom', 'math', etc. Because I think that's more realistic. But of course if you want to be very realistic, then there's no one stopping you from writing with their spelling. Do what's comfortable for you. :)
     
  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with Thomas. If the audience you are aiming to reach is your local clime, then the spelling conventions used there are perfectly appropriate to use. More to the point is to learn - for the sake of dialogue, not narrative - syntactic differences between speaking regions. AmE differs from BrE and its variants not only in vocabulary choice, but in subtle syntactic differences as well. There's another thread floating around here wherein I mention a few of these differences such as elision points, differences in the use of do and got, places where Yanks say from where Brits would say to, the fact that very, very few Americans would ever pluralize institutions or companies (I have never, ever heard anyone here say, "Apple are planning to launch a new line...") Things like that. ;)
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Match dialect to the target audience. not to the setting or to the homeland of the character.

    This gives your novel a consistent style that will be natural to your readers.

    It's not TOO awful to use the character's native spelling in his or her dialogue for effect, as long as you don't try to do it for several characters. However, you'll never distract the reader if you stick to market dialect spelling. Distracting the reader detracts from the reader's immersion in the story.
     
  5. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    That's one of those great tips that should be printed out and hung on every fiction writer's wall.
     
  6. The Peanut Monster
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    The Peanut Monster Senior Member

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    Is this an issue that would be picked up by a publisher later in any event?
     
  7. u.v.ray
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    u.v.ray Member

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    As has already been said, spelling should be consistent with the country of publication.

    Dialogue, however, should be consistent with the characters. It's especially difficult to do if one does not have a thorough grasp of the vernacular indiginous to the geographical area the story is set in.

    American English is not all the same across the United States. Just as there are differences across the UK or Australia.

    People in the Southern United States for instance use many more English English terms than in other parts of America. For example, my ex-girlfriend from Georgia used the term "pop" as opposed to "soda" and "handbag" as opposed to "purse."

    But yes, spelling itself should comply with the country of publication. It wouldn't really be a problem to use American spelling, in my opinion, but whichever one we use it should be consistent throughout the book.

    As I say, the biggest difficulty is being convincing if you are writing in a tongue that one does not have a solid grasp of. Residents indiginous to the area the book is set in will see straight through it if it isn't authentic.

    And that's without even starting on the cultural variations between States.

    You're treading a minefield. :D
     
  8. BMacKay40
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    BMacKay40 Member

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    I read something a long time ago by and English Author where the setting was the United States. It was extremely distracting when they used the Queens English instead of American terms. Some examples:


    English/American
    Lift: Elevator
    Trainers:Tennis shoes
    Lori:Truck
    Garden:Yard
    Bonnet:Hood
    Boot:Trunk
    Aluminium:Aluminum
    Colour:Color

    ...and so on. You get the picture.
     
  9. The Peanut Monster
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    The Peanut Monster Senior Member

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    It's "lorry". And as far as I'm aware, only the UK says lorry - the (former) colonies say "truck".
     
  10. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    IMHO I think it's one of those things where the style of the book needs to be taken into account. My commonly quoted example would be the Baroque Trilogy by Neal Stephenson. He's from the U.S. so used U.S. spellings in the books as they were ostensibly for a U.S. readership. However, the books are set in the late 17th and early 18th centuries and he used grammar and style in a very much 'archaic' way, so the U.S. spellings stand out against the rest of the writing. I felt that they would have ideally suited spelling being in the standard either of the time, or current British English at least.
     
  11. W.A HAWK
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    W.A HAWK Member

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    The only people that speak 17th century English now are some hillbillies in the Appalachian mountains from Scotland originally, not even the English speak English now,not Old English anyway. The Scots I am talking about came over here and broke off from everyone and have lived out in the woods for all these generations. When people want to study Old English, that is where they go.

    Ray,you are right, I lived in Georgia 2 years and am from Tennessee, us Southerners actually speak more English than the Northerners do, yet they tell us we are the ones who can't speak English, that always cracks me up.
     

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