1. Cavance

    Cavance New Member

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    American versus Canadian spelling

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Cavance, Jun 1, 2019.

    I have recently completed a novel, which is set in both Canada and the USA. It's a semi-fictionalized account of my grandfather who was hospitalized in 1927 in an asylum in Milledgeville, Georgia. I am a Canadian writer but hope to market the book in both the USA and Canada. I sent my manuscript for fact checking to an historian in Georgia (where a good part of the action takes place) and she commented that the Canadian spelling in the Georgian sections took her out of the story. My Canadian writer friends suggest I stick with the Canadian spelling but I am concerned that the spelling is tripping up readers who expect American spelling in an American setting. Any suggestions would be most appreciated!
     
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  2. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I'm a Canadian and I use US spellings for anything set in the US or that I wanted marketed to Americans.

    Canadians are just a lot more adaptable for stuff like that. We can read something with US or Canadian spellings and just accept it for what it is. Americans seem much more likely to notice and disapprove of anything they weren't expecting. So... I pander.
     
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  3. jannert

    jannert Super Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Good grief! As an ex-American (from Michigan) who has lived in Scotland for the past 33 years, I confess to not knowing there WAS a difference between American and Canadian spelling! Yikes.

    I think if you start switching spellings in the middle of the story, that's going to have a strange effect, because your readers are likely to be EITHER Canadian or American. So you'll be tripping both of them up, only in different places in the story.

    Maybe you could include an author's note at the start of the story/narrative to say you've chosen to use Canadian spellings, as you are a Canadian, but that you are aware that American spellings may differ in places. That would let you off the hook?

    Just for my own information, can you give me a couple of examples of particular words? I really can't think of any, or at least I never noticed any—and I do read both American AND Canadian writers. Canadian writers on my bookshelves include Wayne Johnston, Michael Crummey, Margaret Atwood, Margaret Laurence, LM Montgomery. I have to say none of their spellings ever tripped me up.

    This is my day for learning new stuff.

    Oh, by the way, welcome to the forum! :)
     
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  4. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    Canadians follow British conventions for most spelling. The extra "u" in colour, neighbour, etc. and also in dialogue and its ilk. We end a lot of words in "re" where Americans would use "er" - centre, theatre, etc. We spell the noun "cheque", not "check". But we follow American conventions for some words, like we don't add those extra letters to pedophile or estrogen or the rest.

    As usual, we've picked and chosen what we like from our Momma and our brother.
     
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  5. jannert

    jannert Super Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Maybe because I'm also used to British spelling I never noticed. (I read lots of British authors in my youth as well.) I feel like an eejit, as they say here in Scotland.

    I know I had a moment of horror when I realised that since I've written my novel over such a long period of time, that British spellings were creeping in. It was actually a Portugese beta who picked this up! I had to go through the ENTIRE MS (203,000 words of it) using both an American spellchecker and then a British spellchecker to find what I hope are all instances. I was mixing spellings a lot, it turns out. The book is set in the USA, and I'm at core an American, so I wanted it to use American spellings. But my own spelling habits are now all over the place. I used to be good at spelling, but I've certainly lost confidence.

    When I was still working as a medical receptionist, I got laughed out of the park for spelling 'diarrhea' like that. Apparently the British spelling uses about 12 more letters. Never did pick it up. And hemorrhoids? Don't go there. Runs and piles. Runs and piles....
     
  6. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    If you are seeking an American publisher use American spelling. And the other way around if you are seeking a Canadian publisher. I've written for places in America where obviously I've used American spelling. But I've also written for publications that use British spelling. I think a lot of European publishers use British spelling. So, really it's going to depend on where you want your book published first. I've had by writing translated into other languages when it came to one publication that put out more than just issues in English. It's pretty cool to see your work in another language you don't know especially Russian which just looks cool. But they did all the translating. So, if you're aiming for an American publisher do what you can to make their job easier. If they start putting out other additions, most likely they will have translators and such on board to take care of this start of thing for you. I think it just comes down to where you are looking to sell first.
     
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  7. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Is she saying that the narrative itself should change spelling depending on where the protagonist is? Or are we talking about things like literal quotes from, say, Georgia highway signs and newspapers?

    The narrative spelling should be consistent through the whole book. Only for quotes of written material should changing spelling be a question.
     
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  8. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Color/Colour - always got me into trouble. I learned from an American Encyclopedia and did my science project on Color and lost my A specifically because I used the American spelling. Donut is another one that sparks arguments.

    Mmm now I'm wondering what spelling I've been using in my book probably American but who knows I have a hard enough time remembering stuff like American's don't say chocolate bar they say candy bar.
     
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  9. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    Long time ago my ex from the States' school was selling an anthology of short stories as a fundraiser, so I wrote one for them (they didn't want me donating to the cookbook). Whoever was editing changed the spelling without saying anything to me, not that I would usually care, but one of the characters made a pun along the lines of "you can't spell honour without 'our,'" which obviously doesn't make any sense in American.
     
  10. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I think they say both. The inexpensive things by the cash register are usually candy bars. The things that advertise the percent of cocoa and have printing talking about fair trade and sourcing are chocolate bars. Somewhere between those two ends of the spectrum is the point where the name changes.

    Though “candy bar” is the superset. A chocolate bar is a kind of candy bar.
     
  11. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    What nationality is your POV character? If he (or they) is/are Canadian, I'd stick with Canadian spellings for anything coming through him/her. (If you're doing omniscient, that could get interesting.)

    One thing you probably don't want to do is let the characters Canadize (hee) anything having to do with the Georgia setting without a jolly good reason. I recently dipped into the Look Inside for a novel set in New Jersey, written by a Londoner. As an American it drove me crazy that he used single quotation marks to set off the dialogue, and that he kept referring to the courthouse in Newark as the "Court House." In that case, all the characters were American, so it was just plain wrong. But if something like this came up in your book, you can have the Canadian characters note that it's different from what they're used to; that will point up the far-from-home experience they're having. It would be like, "It was one word here, 'courthouse.' Another thing he'd have to get used to."

    And if Grandpa refuses to adopt the American terminology and spelling, even in his own thoughts, that will say something about who he is.

    PS-- I've seen "court house" done that way on Google, but from my experience it's not common in everyday life.
     
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  12. Cavance

    Cavance New Member

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    Hi Catrin
    There are two storylines—one from 1913-1927 with an American-born narrator in 3rd person POV while the other in 2016 is 1st person POV narrated by his Canadian granddaughter. I guess we have Noah Webster the lexicographer to blame for my present day quandary https://www.livescience.com/33844-british-american-word-spelling.html. As I would like to market to both American and Canadian audiences, I'm leaning towards either an explanation in the forward of the book or American spelling for the American sections. I understand the importance of consistency in language throughout but for me the most important point as an author is maintaining the authenticity of the characters and their language. Thanks to everyone for your thoughtful suggestions. It's been a real honour/honor being part of the Writing Forum group! Cavance
     
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  13. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I think using authentic words is a lot different from using authentic spellings. If your characters are writing out their lines, then, sure, you should use the spelling the character would have used. But if they're just speaking, or if it's just the narrator using the words, then I don't really see where authenticity comes into it. The author is recounting what happened. If the sky was overcast, spelling it grey vs gray doesn't actually affect the colour of the sky...
     
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  14. Cavance

    Cavance New Member

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    Definitely will consider this point...and not having two characters in different spelling locations...in future novels :)
     
  15. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    For spelling and punctuation, you should choose one, almost certainly whoever your primary audience is, and stick with it.

    For grammar and word choice, it depends on how close your POV is—if it’s first person, you’d use the character’s. If it’s close third, you’d probably tend to use the character’s.
     
  16. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Even then, the spelling should be that of the audience. If the main character is American, but the primary audience is UK, then in the narration, things are coloured grey. If you’re in a quite distant third, then the grey coloured sign is on the lift. If you’re in first person, the grey coloured sign is on the elevator. Somewhere between distant and close third, the lift becomes an elevator.
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2019
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  17. jannert

    jannert Super Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Oh yeah. Chocolate bar/candy bar. These are the kinds of things that spellcheckers won't catch. Like here in Scotland, people don't say candy. They say 'sweeties.' (They might say 'chocolates' if the candies are in a presentation box, or wrapped individually, and are made or coated with chocolate.) Desserts are usually referred to, generically, as 'sweets.' You can ask for the 'Sweets' menu in a restaurant, and you'll get the dessert menu. (This is different from 'sweeties!' which usually come in a bag—like Werther's Originals, or hard mints, etc, or are sold by the scoop in a 'sweetie shop.')

    And then there is 'pudding.' Most of Scotland says 'pudding' when they mean 'dessert'—especially if it's served at home or at a dinner party (as opposed to a restaurant.) They might say, "Would you like some pudding?" "Are we having pudding?" "What's for pudding?" This applies no matter what the dessert might be!

    This is why I think it's probably a good idea to write in the lingo you're most familiar with. Trying to change it convincingly is not going to be easy. Spellings aren't the only problem.
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2019
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  18. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    This is really limiting, though. I'm most familiar with the dialect of my home area, contemporary setting, but I want to be able to write stories set in different places and times. And I certainly don't think it would be a good idea to use the modern vernacular of Southern Ontario for a story set in historic Australia...

    I say do some research, do your best, and get a beta who's familiar with the region you're setting your story. Fanfiction calls it getting a Brit Check when an American author gets a British friend to read a story for dialect issues. I think that's a good solution.
     
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  19. jannert

    jannert Super Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, that's the best solution, I reckon, if you have it available. Get somebody who IS familiar with the lingo to do a beta read ...even if only for that issue alone.
     
  20. LastMindToSanity

    LastMindToSanity Senior Member

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    I think that the biggest difference is that there's more freedom with American spelling.
     
  21. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    That's not my perception. Do you have any examples?
     
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  22. Maverick_nc

    Maverick_nc Member

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    It's easy to remember American naming conventions and colloquialisms:
    Just think of the most painfully obvious way of describing something and it's probably that -

    Pavement - "Well its an area on the side of the street and we walk on it, so.... Sidewalk!"
    Guide Dog - "It's a dog and it sees things where it's owner can't....Seeing Eye Dog!"

    What can I say :bigtongue:
     
  23. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    You mean the paved bit made of pavement and can exist independent of being beside anything?
     
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  24. LastMindToSanity

    LastMindToSanity Senior Member

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    Actually, it was just a joke. 'Cause Murica and freedom and all that.
     
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  25. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    According to the CATO index, America placed 17th by freedom of the 159 countries measured, but that's kind of off topic.
     

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