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Archived Author Help > US English Vs British English

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Hi,
I was hoping to get your thoughts on the spelling variations between US and British English.

The obvious differences are color vs colour or organise vs organize (even now organise is underlined in red, lol).


I'm from the UK and I, naturally, use British English in my books. But I wonder whether I am narrowing my audience by doing so. I would hate for my American cousins to think I cannot spell!

Has anyone had any experiences or problems with the difference in spelling? Or possibly the difference in meaning, ie chips vs fries. I would really love to hear your feedback.


message 2: by Ken (last edited Apr 29, 2015 11:59AM) (new)

Ken Doggett (kendoggett) I think most Americans have no problems with the British variety, although I do have to pause for an instant when I see the word "whilst." It's a Three-Stooges thing I think.


message 3: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Barclay (shellcastle) | 15 comments I think you are okay, unless you are aiming for a specifically American audience. However, it is obvious to American readers, so you could have a UK and a US version, if it bothered you that much. The logistics would be difficult, though, so I would just stick to what is natural, if I were you.


message 4: by Charles (new)

Charles Hash | 1054 comments Ken wrote: "I think most Americans have no problems with the British variety, although I do have to pause for an instant when I see the word "whilst." It's a Three-Stooges thing I think."

I got into an argument with OpenOffice over that word. I knew it was a real word but that little squiggly line wouldn't stfu. I probably use a wretched blend of both.


message 5: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Barclay (shellcastle) | 15 comments My husband is British and he uses whilst constantly. I never realized it was a primarily British word because I read so many classics, though.


message 6: by Igzy (last edited Apr 29, 2015 12:06PM) (new)

Igzy Dewitt (IgzyDewitt) | 148 comments Growing up in New York my parents used to buy a good many British editions of books from their favorite authors, both to have an alternative cover to the US edition, and to have access to the books before the US release. The only time British English ever gave me a problem was after I took to reading as a child, and my teachers would complain that my spellings of some words leaned towards British English.

Outside of colloquial turns of phrase that might not connect to the US readership there really isn't a disparity between the languages that has thrown me as a reader.


message 7: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 29, 2015 12:32PM) (new)

By Igzy "Outside of colloquial turns of phrase that might not connect to the US readership there really isn't a disparity between the languages that has thrown me as a reader."

I am heartened to hear it. And it seems that everyone (so far) is in agreement. Phew! I love this Group, the feedback is always excellent - thank you :)


message 8: by Christina (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) Either spelling is acceptable and I have to say that I personally find it frustrating when publishers feel the need to release an 'American English' version of a body of work. Especially in a children's book like the Harry Potter series, where having the different slang terms would have been a great tool to learn about the differences between cultures that share a language.

My only issue would be if you are writing an American narrator who uses British terms and spelling.


message 9: by Charles (new)

Charles Hash | 1054 comments I think we can all agree that colour is just weird.


message 10: by Jenycka (new)

Jenycka Wolfe (jenyckawolfe) | 301 comments I'm Canadian, so I'm used to seeing more British spelling than American. In uni, our professors let us use either, with the only caveat being that we needed to be consistent with one or the other.

The only time I've found British or American spelling jarring is in location-specific stories. AKA, if there's a book set in Britain, about British characters, American spelling feels obnoxious. Feels about the same if it's a book set in the US featuring American characters with British spelling.


message 11: by Jenycka (new)

Jenycka Wolfe (jenyckawolfe) | 301 comments Charles wrote: "I think we can all agree that colour is just weird."

Speak for yourself, dude! I've always thought that "color" looked simplistic and lazy.


message 12: by Jenycka (new)

Jenycka Wolfe (jenyckawolfe) | 301 comments Christina wrote: "Either spelling is acceptable and I have to say that I personally find it frustrating when publishers feel the need to release an 'American English' version of a body of work. Especially in a child..."

Agree Agree Agree! Seriously, would it have been so tough for American kids to learn what philosophers, fringe, and jumpers are? Really?


message 13: by Denise (last edited Apr 29, 2015 12:50PM) (new)

Denise (mariesiduri) I think aside from some of the more obscure British obscenities and terms of personal abuse (just how insulting is it to be called a tosser?), I can't imagine that most Americans would fail to connect with your writing as is. As long as it's obvious that the author is British, and some context is given, I think you'll get allowances for what might appear at first blush to be differences.

Best of luck with the book.


message 14: by Charles (new)

Charles Hash | 1054 comments Jenycka wrote: "Charles wrote: "I think we can all agree that colour is just weird."

Speak for yourself, dude! I've always thought that "color" looked simplistic and lazy."


Colour is so awkward and pretentious.


message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

Jenycka wrote: "The only time I've found British or American spelling jarring is in location-specific stories. AKA, if there's a book set in Britain, about British characters, American spelling feels obnoxious. Feels about the same if it's a book set in the US featuring American characters with British spelling.
..."


Good point! My book is set in London, with mostly British characters. It makes sense they behave and speak correctly for their location.


message 16: by G.G. (new)

G.G. (ggatcheson) | 2491 comments Charles wrote: "Jenycka wrote: "Charles wrote: "I think we can all agree that colour is just weird."

Speak for yourself, dude! I've always thought that "color" looked simplistic and lazy."

Colour is so awkward a..."


Charles, I hope you're not serious. :/


message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

Denise wrote: "I think aside from some of the more obscure British obscenities and terms of personal abuse (just how insulting is it to be called a tosser?), I can't imagine that most Americans would fail to con..."

Denise, I love your comment!
But did you know that you should never call a Scottish lass a cow ... sounds harmless, but translates to 'woman of the night' or more bluntly, a prostitute.
'Tosser' sounds harmless, but if said with intent to a British male it is rude.


message 18: by Nick (new)

Nick | 5 comments This is all Noah Webster's fault. I never understood why the Americans gave the job of writing their spelling book to a bloke who couldn't spell...

;)


message 19: by Anthony Deeney (new)

Anthony Deeney | 437 comments Charles wrote: "Jenycka wrote: "Charles wrote: "I think we can all agree that colour is just weird."

Speak for yourself, dude! I've always thought that "color" looked simplistic and lazy."

Colour is so awkward a..."


We discussed this in PM. Car Wreck/Car smash etc.

The one that looked weird to me in your book was

"drug" rather than "dragged!"

:P


message 20: by Nick (new)

Nick | 5 comments Jenycka wrote: "The only time I've found British or American spelling jarring is in location-specific stories. AKA, if there's a book set in Britain, about British characters, American spelling feels obnoxious. Feels about the same if it's a book set in the US featuring American characters with British spelling."

Agree 100% with this.


message 21: by Charles (new)

Charles Hash | 1054 comments Anthony wrote: "drug" rather than "dragged!"

It looks like that is flat out wrong and I need to change it.

Thanks for putting me on blast, bro! ;)


message 22: by Quoleena (new)

Quoleena Sbrocca (qjsbrocca) Shell wrote: "My husband is British and he uses whilst constantly. I never realized it was a primarily British word because I read so many classics, though."

I'm American, and I use whilst all the time. And I prefer the spelling of grey over gray and traveller over traveler. As for my writing, I have to use the American spellings, that way my crush on the British culture won't be exposed. Don't tell!


message 23: by Ken (new)

Ken Doggett (kendoggett) Jenycka wrote: "Charles wrote: "I think we can all agree that colour is just weird."

Speak for yourself, dude! I've always thought that "color" looked simplistic and lazy."


Of course it's simplistic and lazy. But we Americans like to call it "efficient."


message 24: by Igzy (new)

Igzy Dewitt (IgzyDewitt) | 148 comments Ken wrote: "Of course it's simplistic and lazy. But we Americans like to call it "efficient." "

There is a reason our one great contribution to philosophy was the school of American Pragmatism. :-P


message 25: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Siegrist (amandasiegrist) | 190 comments I can say that it doesn't bother me. As long as the writing is well, it doesn't matter. If written well, you can dictate a hint of an accent and who can resist a British accent.


message 26: by A.E. (new)

A.E. Dark | 19 comments This just reminds me of my day job too much when my boss hands me a document and he didn't notice Word was set to US English ...

To be honest I didn't even think of the language differences as an issue. I just assumed it would be fine and decided if I could exhaust the UK market I'd be a happy chappy (long, long way to go still)


message 27: by Christina (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) Jenycka wrote: "Agree Agree Agree! Seriously, would it have been so tough for American kids to learn what philosophers, fringe, and jumpers are? Really?"

The thing that really irked me was that the Philosopher's stone is a 'real' thing that has appeared in countless other bodies of work. Changing it to something else would be like if I wrote a story about the holy grail and called it the magical sippy cup.


message 28: by Ken (new)

Ken Doggett (kendoggett) Christina wrote: "the magical sippy cup..."

Now, THAT'S a good name for a fantasy novel...


message 29: by Charles (new)

Charles Hash | 1054 comments Ken wrote: "Christina wrote: "the magical sippy cup..."

Now, THAT'S a good name for a fantasy novel..."


Except it's not fantasy, and it's called television. :(


message 30: by Ken (new)

Ken Doggett (kendoggett) Charles wrote: "Ken wrote: "Christina wrote: "the magical sippy cup..."

Now, THAT'S a good name for a fantasy novel..."

Except it's not fantasy, and it's called television. :("


Sorry, I don't watch a lot of TV, so I might have missed it.


message 31: by Melissa (new)

Melissa Jensen (kdragon) | 468 comments Debbie wrote: "Denise wrote: "I think aside from some of the more obscure British obscenities and terms of personal abuse (just how insulting is it to be called a tosser?), I can't imagine that most Americans wo..."

The evolution of slang and insults throughout the world is so interesting. Calling a woman a cow in the US is also an insult, but our version of "cow" means fat and lazy.


message 32: by Melissa (new)

Melissa Jensen (kdragon) | 468 comments Speaking for myself, I think the only thing that will occasional jar me is the use of "he was sat." Which the part of my brain containing American grammar just can't seem to cope with (although the real issue may be that the author will be writing very American, with American spelling and such, only to suddenly use "he was sat" and throwing me for a loop).

Other than that, British English has never been an issue and my brain recognizes it pretty quick.


message 33: by Quoleena (new)

Quoleena Sbrocca (qjsbrocca) Here's another one: "I haven't got a clue" vs "I don't have a clue"


message 34: by Christina (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) Weird. I say 'I haven't a clue' or simply, 'no clue.'


message 35: by Anthony Deeney (new)

Anthony Deeney | 437 comments Charles wrote: "Anthony wrote: "drug" rather than "dragged!"

It looks like that is flat out wrong and I need to change it.

Thanks for putting me on blast, bro! ;)"

LOL! Sorry! No, I looked it up. It's an Americanism from part of the U.S.


message 36: by Anthony Deeney (new)

Anthony Deeney | 437 comments Melissa wrote: "Debbie wrote: "Denise wrote: "I think aside from some of the more obscure British obscenities and terms of personal abuse (just how insulting is it to be called a tosser?), I can't imagine that mo..."

Some words don't travel well.

I think the word "f%nny" is a quite innocent term for "bottom." Over here it is a quite shocking term for "ladybits."


message 37: by A.E. (new)

A.E. Dark | 19 comments Anthony wrote: "Charles wrote: "Anthony wrote: "drug" rather than "dragged!"

It looks like that is flat out wrong and I need to change it.

Thanks for putting me on blast, bro! ;)"
LOL! Sorry! No, I looked it up..."


Wow never knew that. I have to say if I'd read that in a book I would have assumed it was incorrect. Interesting to know


message 38: by Charles (new)

Charles Hash | 1054 comments Anthony wrote: "Charles wrote: "Anthony wrote: "drug" rather than "dragged!"

It looks like that is flat out wrong and I need to change it.

Thanks for putting me on blast, bro! ;)"
LOL! Sorry! No, I looked it up..."


I still changed it. :D


message 39: by Owen (new)

Owen O'Neill (owen_r_oneill) | 1509 comments Debbie wrote: "Hi,
I was hoping to get your thoughts on the spelling variations between US and British English..."


A lot of US readers like it. I've yet to run into anyone who actively dislikes it, or thinks it's "wrong". I'm sure such people exist, but how likely are they to read your book?

When one ventures into boot and bonnet (WRT to autos), lorries and petrol and the naughty step, not all US readers might follow that, and it will tag your book as British. But very few (as far as I know) will boggle at colour vs color.


message 40: by Anthony Deeney (new)

Anthony Deeney | 437 comments Charles wrote: "I still changed it. :D "

:)

OK!
What about color, gray...?
;P


message 41: by Anthony Deeney (new)

Anthony Deeney | 437 comments Debbie wrote: "Jenycka wrote: "The only time I've found British or American spelling jarring is in location-specific stories. AKA, if there's a book set in Britain, about British characters, American spelling fee..."

Good point. I would not have thought of that!


message 42: by Ken (new)

Ken Doggett (kendoggett) Owen wrote: "When one ventures into boot and bonnet (WRT to autos), lorries and petrol and the naughty step, not all US readers might follow that, and it will tag your book as British..."

I've always thought it odd that, growing up in the Southeastern US, I heard my parents always refer to the trunk of a car as "the boot." Seems to be a British thing, but maybe at one time it was a Southern thing, too.


message 43: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 1042 comments Use the spelling that's normal in your region. There's no shame in it. It's not that unusual or difficult. I mean, the internet. I stumble across news articles from UK sources all the time. And every UK author I've read uses UK English.

You guys invented the danged language (kind of) anyway. Why should a bunch of rebellious upstarts be the ones to dictate how you spell things?

Vive la difference!


message 44: by Charles (new)

Charles Hash | 1054 comments Anthony wrote: "Charles wrote: "I still changed it. :D "

:)

OK!
What about color, gray...?
;P"


Gray is the accepted spelling in America. I've thought about changing it to grey though, which I prefer. :\


message 45: by M.E. (new)

M.E. Kinkade (mekinkade) | 17 comments I think you're safe! I just finished reading the very British "Cat Out of Hell" and I found it enhanced by the Britishisms. I only recommend you tread with caution on any words that may have a different meaning in our two countries (ex. "Fanny"--mildly obscene to you, but utterly innocent and old-fashioned here in the U.S.!)


message 46: by Anthony Deeney (new)

Anthony Deeney | 437 comments M.E. wrote: '. "Fanny"--mildly obscene to you, but utterly innocent and old-fashioned here in the U.S.!)'

Hi M.E. you obviously missed that I made this point,Message 37.

However it is very telling that I chose to sensor the word and you did not.

I think the word "f%nny" is a quite innocent term for "bottom." Over here it is a quite shocking term for "ladybits."

On a related point I remember in 1993 sitting in a cinema watching the trailers for "coming soon" films. Up comes this stirring trailer about a boy and
a killer whale. I was mildly interested. The Glasgow cinema was full, bur quiet. Then the film title was displayed on the screen,"Free Willy." The cinema erupted!


message 47: by M.E. (new)

M.E. Kinkade (mekinkade) | 17 comments Apologies, Anthony! That's what I get for skimming. And the word is SO innocent here in the states, it's even a woman's name! (Old-fashioned, but it pops up now and again.)

Don't worry, though, lots in the U.S. Thought the whale movie had a funny title, too--particularly after Pres. Clinton's scandal!


message 48: by Anthony Deeney (new)

Anthony Deeney | 437 comments No apologies required, you just reinforced my(our) point.

:)


message 49: by [deleted user] (new)

There is a lot about the Southern US that is actually British in origin. Listen close: Southern and British accents have a lot in common.


message 50: by Charles (last edited May 03, 2015 08:56PM) (new)

Charles Hash | 1054 comments Amongst is one British preposition I insist on using. That's the word I was trying to think of earlier and could not.


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