1. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Should I use British grammar if I'm writing a story set in Britain?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Link the Writer, Aug 9, 2011.

    By that I mean, I know the characters will have British dialects and phrases (obviously), but let's use these phrases as examples:

    Edwin held the torn fabric close to the suit the tailor had laid out for him. Yes, he smiled with satisfaction, it was indeed the right color.

    or

    "You have no honor!" Edwin snarled, holding the dagger steady at the man's throat.

    Since this is set in Britain, shouldn't I be writing "colour" and "honour" instead?

    Thoughts?
     
  2. CH878
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    CH878 Active Member

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    Usually, spelling and grammar depends on where the book is being sold or read, so if you're intending the book to be for the British market then I'd definitely use British grammar. If you're wanting it to be read in the US (or wherever) then use the grammar rules for that area.
    I'd only change the spellings if the words are phonetically different, for example 'got' instead of 'gotten' in speech to make it more realistic.
     
  3. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Well, I'm just targeting all YA readers, so I figured that since (if I ever) I'd be running this through an American publishing company, I'd adhere to the rules and (if ever) if it goes to Britain, the publishers there would just alter the grammar, etc.
     
  4. CH878
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    CH878 Active Member

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    If you're targeting YA readers in Britain then you probably wouldn't even need to bother changing the grammar, we get loads of American YA books over hear with American grammar (Twilight being a popular one that springs to mind) which sell fine.
     
  5. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's a good plan. I think the agent/editor submission pool is much larger in the states than the UK. So if your aim is to get the book published by the largest publishing house you can find, then it would be better to use American spelling, as most of your submissions will go to America. If you acquire a British publisher you could always edit the manuscript accordingly. But either way nobody's going to reject the book based on this factor alone.

    Edit: Oh I see now that you're from USA. Then the answer is most definately American spelling.
     
  6. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd stick with what you know (American usage) and leave any 'conversion' to people who know 'Brit'. Having worked with a couple of British writers, I know there are so many subtle differences I would never try to do this.
     
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  7. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    In narrative, use the spelling and grammar of your intended first market. In dialog use the spelling of your intended first market too, but as always the grammar and idioms should be those the character would actually use unless it is so arcane that your readers will gave trouble with it, in which case you should treat it as you would a foreign language.

    Although obviously I would like it if you all used British spelling and grammar. :D
     
  8. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It would be strange to have a mish-mash of American and British spelling.

    By all means, use British idoms or expressions, but I wouldn't spell common words in British English, if the rest of your writing is American English.
     
  9. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Your examples are spelling, not grammar. I'd say that:

    - Spelling in everything - narrative and dialogue - should be that of the country in which you will be published. The same for punctuation.
    - Grammar in dialogue should be that of the character that is speaking.
    - Grammar in narrative is an "it depends" question - if it's in first person in a specific character's voice, it should be that character's grammar. Otherwise, it should be the grammar of the country in which you will be published.
    - Word choice should, in general, follow the same rules as grammar, though if you think that your readers will be deeply confused at seeing "lift" instead of "elevator" and "jumper" instead of "sweater", you may or may not decide to trade some authenticity for clarity.

    ChickenFreak
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Write your narrative for the market the book is intended for, regardless of the content. In dialogue, you should probably spell for the target audience, but structure the phrasing by the character. However, I can see the value of spekking the dialogue to go with the character's dialect if it helps the reader think of the accent.

    Make your choice from the outset, and be consistent,
     
  11. colorthemap
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    colorthemap Contributing Member

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    It is not that important, your publisher will tell you.

    For example: Colorthemap does not mean that this account is American, and I even often switch the phrases. Most people won't care, whatever works.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Your publisher will not be your publisher if you don't provide a manuscript very nearly ready for the market that publisher sells to. The publisher won't tell you to Brit it up or Americanize it. Thje publisher will simply say, "No thanks."
     
  13. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    But isn't that basically the same as a translation? If an American writer is published by an American publisher and the book is then distributed world-wide, the author isn't expected to translate it to all the various languages. Or are you saying that if the American writer *tried* to write "Brit" and failed (or at least made a muddle of it), the publisher would back away? Because I could understand that happening, definitely.
     
  14. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I think what Cogito is saying is that the publisher isn't going to care if you're using American or British grammar and spelling in your book. If they're not interested in it, they'll simply say, "no thanks."
     
  15. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that the idea is that the book had better be very close to ready for its _first_ market when the publisher first sees it. If it gets published and succeeds in that market then, yes, I would assume that the publisher would be involved in prepping it for any other markets that the publisher is interested in presenting it to. But a manuscript that will require lots of extra editor hours to make it ready for the first market is a manuscript with a huge strike against it, because no doubt the publisher is considering other manuscripts that don't require that extra expense.
     
  16. colorthemap
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    colorthemap Contributing Member

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    ^^^

    Which is what I meant.
     
  17. DBock
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    DBock Member

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    No. You shouldn't. As I mentioned in another post --- use setting and language to establish location. You don't have to use phonetic dialogue or change the spelling of things to make us suddenly realize they are british. :) Just by saying 'bloody' or 'quid' is going to let us know right off. The less you do the better. Focus on the characters, and let the reader supply the accent.
     
  18. StrangerWithNoName
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    StrangerWithNoName Longobard duke

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    Yes I would use english grammar and also some regional dialect from Midlands, the North, Cockney etc...to make it feel realistic, even to british authors.

    P.S. I always write in brit english because...well here we are taught that english is from England and we were supposed to learn the King's speech.
     

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