1. Superevil225
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    Superevil225 Member

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    Spelling Conundrums! US vs UK

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Superevil225, Jan 30, 2012.

    I was just wondering how to spell things the British way, or American way. I live in Canada and I always have these debates with my writer friends. Is it better to use the British spelling of words or American? I usually stick with British because it's more common to see signs with centre than center where I live, but I was wondering what you all thought?
    I.e.
    grey vs gray
    centre vs center
    colour vs color
    favourite vs favorite
     
  2. jc.
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    jc. Contributing Member

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    I stick to what I know. I have a friend from Canada who I e-mail on a regular basis and have noticed this too. Not saying Britain = Canada but I mean just the subtle differences in spelling. She uses "realise" for example instead of "realize" and there are a few others.

    It seems like my auto-correct likes the American spelling more (at least in my browser and word processing software) so it's also easier for me.

    I *think* it's usually better to stick with what's relevant... My friend from Illinois calls soda "pop" and my father-in-law calls the remote control "the box" (no idea) but I still call them soda, and remote.
     
  3. TheIllustratedMan
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    TheIllustratedMan Active Member

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    Neither is necessarily correct, just use what you're comfortable with and be consistent.

    Calling the remote "the box" might come from the early days of remote controls, when they were nearly-keyboard-sized boxes with switches and a wire back to the TV. You should ask him about it.
     
  4. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Pretty much. I'm an American, so I'll be using American spelling and grammar. (that and I don't know a whole lot of British slang, so...yeah.)

    If I were British, I would be using British spelling and grammar.

    There's no right or wrong answer to how you do it, except to pick a style and be consistent. If you feel more comfortable using British spelling, then use it.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Spell for the market into which you will be trying to sell your book. If you are in the United States, you will most likely be submitting to US publishers. Furthermore, you are more likely to get it right if you use the spelling from your native environment.

    It goes not only for spelling, but punctuation, grammar, and usage as well.
     
  6. MegTheLedge
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    MegTheLedge Member

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    I'm an American obsessed with Canada and I spell and speak like a Brit.

    I am of no help here. :)
     
  7. Cosmic Latte
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    Cosmic Latte Member

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    I'd spell things the generally accepted way they're spelled where you're from. If the British spelling is more common, then stick with that.

    In regards to spelling and word choice, just be sure the usage fits your intended audience's understanding. The Centre becomes Center becomes Plaza is really a Strip-Mall sort-of-thing. An example might be in Southern California where a general outdoor shopping center is a "plaza", unless it's a higher-end shopping strip where it's called a "centre", but in Chicagoland they were all strip-malls. The spelling of the word you choose can change the perceived meaning of the word for the audience your work is directed toward.

    This gets into regionalisms (soda vs. pop) and dated phrases (soda-pop ... I still use it and it gets me funny looks), which I'd avoid altogether unless they add to the development of your characters or enhance your plot. Like TheIllustratedMan said about "the box", if I asked you to fetch the towling would you necessarily know I meant the paper towels?
     
  8. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Exactly.

    It does beg the question though. What if I had a British character and I wanted him to yell something like, "You bloody wanker! You have no sense of humor!" To me, it doesn't fit with the US spelling because he would say "humour" as that's the correct British spelling for a British guy. Especially grating if I have him say, "Pass me the flashlight, if you please." instead of "Pass me the torch, if you please."

    Or should I still stick with the US spelling and grammar even though my character's supposed to be from Britain?
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You cannot hear spelling in speech. It's better to stick with the same spelling conventions throughout the story.

    It's not as hard and fast a rule in dialogue, but it's still generally best to be consistent.
     
  10. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Okay, so US spelling for me, regardless of the nationality of my character. Got it. =)
     
  11. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    As Cog said about using UK spelling for British publishers and US spelling for America. If, e.g., you are accepted by an agent in England, or already published in the UK, the work is edited again later for the US market if it is published there later. Your original submission is still in British style.
    And why don't you just switch the Word spell and grammar check? (British/US/Canadian/Australian etc English) = end of problem. Many computers are set to US English as default. The first thing I always do is change it to British English.
    Be consistent, whichever you choose.
     
  12. KinkyCousin
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    KinkyCousin Member

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    What if it's "mum" and "mom", you can hear the difference in pronunciation but it's subtle. I am British and I write in UK English but if I write an American character it'd feel weird to have them say "mum".
     
  13. TheIllustratedMan
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    TheIllustratedMan Active Member

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    Well, those are two different words. It'd be like an American character saying that he was going to get some chips at the pub, or a British character saying that he was getting fries at the bar. It's not necessarily wrong, just odd. Their buddies would probably make fun of them.
     
  14. Corgz
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    Corgz Senior Member

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    There is a fine line between fries and chips. >:|
     
  15. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    Let's put it this way.
    Who is more likely to query over a spelling gone different.

    An American or an English person?
    I would say an English person because the spelling of colour with a U came firsrt.
    The American version came second without a U.
    It would make more sense to an American to read colour with a U because he or she knows that the English spelling came first.
    By order of logic I would write using the first spelling and not the second.
    so to answer your question:
    I personally would use the original spelling because it came first.
    it is a bit like saying I would award an A (here it is a U) to the winner because they came first and not the second.
    I hope this helped a little.:)

    This whole thing about using some words by removing their original spelling is strange because, the American spelling suggest we remove the U in the word colour and then it stops there.
    If you are to remove one letter such as the U to distinguish one spelling from an other then isn't one obliged to do with all the words containing the letter U?
    for example one could also remove the U from the word QUESTION for example.
    and if one followed this logic of removing letters then the word QUESTION would look like this ESTION because we would have to lose the Q too because it does not stand on its own as it needs the U.
    Just a thought there.;)
     
  16. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Well, for slang, you can always include subtle translations, like so.

    British Character: "I'm going to get chips at the pub."

    It's a given that 'pub' means 'bar'.

    Now let's have that British character and American friends at the pub and he gets his chips.

    Friend #1: Those are fries, I thought you wanted chips?
    Friend #2: That's what they call fries over in the UK.
    British Friend: Right, exactly. <starts munching on fries>

    Hmmm...I can see the confusion.
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you should decide on the basis of what you've written and which readership you're targeting... if you're writing a story set in the uk or canada and want your work published there, for uk/commonwealth readers, then use their spelling...

    if you want your work published in the us, for american readers, then it's best to use american spelling, unless your characters and setting are decidedly british and the british spelling would add to the 'flavour' of the story...
     
  18. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    If you are going to use English spelling and set your story in England then please also learn about British rhythms of speech.

    I always cringe watching American TV shows (especially shows from the 80s/90s) which feature British people because when they are played by Americans they sound wrong, and awkward; when actually played by a British person a lot of the time it sounds like the actor just doesn't care, and knew most Americans wouldn't know.
     
  19. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    ^ Pretty much what Lemmy said.

    My stories are mostly set in America because I'm comfortable with the dialect and speech patterns we Yanks use. As much as I love the Brits, I don't think I have a firm grasp on how they talk to write about a British person set in Britain.

    Now, I do want to say this: I am reading a mystery series set in Ancient Rome that's written by a British author. In the story's universe, the characters are speaking Latin (as they're...Ancient Romans), yet the author writes using British spelling and grammar. Now, I just assumed they were speaking Latin; yet I was still jarred when the narrator mentioned another character's decent attempt at Latin when the whole thing is written in British English.

    Just felt like I toss that out for thoughts.
     
  20. Eunoia
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    Eunoia Contributing Member Contributor

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    I heard the other day from my tutor that apparently Canadian English (as opposed to English English, American English etc.) is most widely used or something.

    I don't think it matters too much either way as long as you're consistent. And I agree with what Lemex has said as well.
     
  21. Blueflare
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    Blueflare Member

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    Think about who would read your work - what sort of spellings do they use? Canada is interesting because you do see both sometimes (I used to live in Canada :) ) so I suppose you get to choose. If you're more comfortable with one or the other, then go with it.
     
  22. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    Haha.

    No. We don't follow Old English because Old English "came first." Spoken and written language evolves with time and place. Follow the rules of language of the country for which you are submitting your work.

    And then the next step would be to stick one's head in a vat of cement, because it would make just as much sense.
     
  23. Kallithrix
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    Kallithrix Banned

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    David Wishart? If so, then I need to give you a bajillion rep points (once I figure out how to) :D

    But I disagree about the British idioms being jarring because it is meant to represent Latin - if you're translating a character's speech (and the narrative) from one language to another, you're using equivalent terms and diction, not literally translating - attempts at rendering classical language in literal translation are freakin godawful. So, if you're portraying a lower class Roman, why not make them cockney? If you're portraying an aristocratic senator, why not make them sound like Prince Charles? It's all about representing the equivalent modes of speech so that your audience understands the social structure, not trying to accurately portray the Latin phraseology - that is in fact utterly impossible.

    But you can still draw attention to the fact that it's meant to be Latin, as that just reinforces what you're trying to do.
     
  24. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    No, Lindsey Davis with her Didius Falco mysteries. 8) I also read Nate Drake's Rahotep mysteries. (He writes the mysteries set in Ancient Egypt.)
     
  25. madhoca
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    Archeologists found a hoard of little wooden tablets buried near Hadrian's Wall--the Roman equivalent of cheap postcards. They read like modern e-mails when translated:
    "Tell Drusilla not to wear the yellow, because I'm wearing my saffron--if she does, she knows what's coming to her." "The Garrison sends hearty congratulations to Commander Marcus on the arrival of his son." "What the **** are you lot hanging about for? We expected you last week." type of thing.

    Like Kallithrix says, let the characters speak according to their station in life, and who they are addressing.
     

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