Goodreads Sci-Fi/Fantasy Authors discussion

Writing and Publishing > US or International English for sci-fi fiction?

Comments Showing 1-12 of 12 (12 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Michael (new)

Michael Thomas (starcrusader) As a British writer my work tends to be written in International English. It is obviously my language and the way I was taught to read and write all the way back to being a child. Since then I've written a number of novels, all in International English.

My question is probably more to do with reader expectation though, rather than what we, as writers prefer. Do you think the general reader cares if the book is in UK or US English? Would you always write in your native version or would you always recommend US English?

message 2: by Keiji (new)

Keiji Miashin I say write in the language your most comfortable and familiar with. If you're used to International English don't try to write in American. Trying to do something you're not familiar with might negatively affect your writing.

Of course if you're writing just for practice, I'd say go for it. New experiences always help.

As for my stand as a reader. I learned American English as my third language and it is now my main language. It's the English I myself write in. However as a reader I can read both International English and US English. There are differences certainly, especially some of the proverbs and turns of phrase are completely new to me, but it's not as if the book becomes immediately illegible to me when in UK English.

Forewarning though, if you write in International English there will always, always, always find some silly American somewhere going "It's spelled color not colour." and things like that. Have some flame retardant shielding ready for those kinds of folks.

message 3: by Maxwell (new)

Maxwell Drake (maxwell_alexander_drake) | 80 comments As an American author myself, I have to say Keiji is spot on.

There really is not much difference between the two. And the differences that exist, any half-wit should be able to muddle through. Unfortunately, Keiji is also correct in the fact that there is a group of Americans (and I am sorry to say that that group is growing faster than I would like) that are not even half-wits. Many Americans are either quarter-wits, or complete morons with no wit. You will get these folks smacking you around for the trivial - like colour.

I, myself, decided to use the British version of "I'll join you later." in my large fantasy saga that is out now. In America, we say, "Go on, I will catch up to you." However, I really liked the British, "Go on, I will catch you up." It just has a nice fantasy ring to it to my ears.

It amazes me how many emails I get about this one stupid phrase.

Another example is I have a line that has turned into a tagline lots of my fans use. It is, "Be willing to pay what needs be paid." I was FURIOUS when the publisher did the audio book and the person who did the narration changed this to the American version of, "Be willing to pay what needs TO be paid." Now, don't get me wrong. I LOVE my narrator. He is awesome and I am sure he did not even notice that he added the TO in the line.

Still, it was upsetting as this has become kinda a saying in my world.

I am, however, excited about the Japanese translation of my book. Instead of doing a literal translation, my publisher has hired a Japanese/English author to help me mediate the translation. This is giving me the ability to look at the translated work through my personal translator, and discuss how the translation feels in his native language. I think it is going to be WAY better than if it had just gone through a literal translation. Now, once it is in Japanese, they are simply going to take that and translate it to Korean and Mandarin, so all bets are off for those. I think it will be a better translation, however, from Japanese to those other Asian languages, than it would have been from English to those languages.

Bottom line - Write in International. Readers, even most of us half-wit Americans, will be able to follow you.

Maxwell Alexander Drake
Read the first five chapters of my award-winning fantasy saga at

message 4: by Keryl (new)

Keryl Raist (kerylraist) | 54 comments If you have the time, set up different versions of your book depending on where you want to publish.

Save a base manuscript of your book.

Then put your manuscript in Word, load up spell checker in your normal English, go through and spiff it up. Save that copy and use it for any versions published outside America (by which I mean both continents).

Then go back to that original manuscript, switch Word to US English for spell and grammar check, and clean out the Brit spelling. Release this version for North and South America. (Yes, I know Canadian spelling is usually closer to Brit spelling than US spelling, but usually you can't fine tune your sales that closely. sells to US and Canada, and so on...)

Beyond US style spelling, don't mess with it. That should keep the half wits at bay, and without destroying the flavor of your writing.

message 5: by Maxwell (new)

Maxwell Drake (maxwell_alexander_drake) | 80 comments Keryl,

That is great in theory. And perhaps great if you are self-publishing. However, you will find yourself hard pressed to convince a publisher to cover those extra costs.

And I am not speaking of the little things like doubling up on ISBN, listing fees, etc. A publisher will balk at paying those as well, but I am referring to the logistics of distribution. You are talking about the publisher having to print up multiple versions of the same binding. I.E., two versions of the Trade, Hardback, Mass Market, etc. Since a publisher must print up a large quantity if they are going to compete. And I am not speaking Print On Demand (POD), here. POD is fine for some things - self-publishing most of all. But, when you compare printing a Trade at $7.50 with POD vs. $2.25 in a traditional print run, it is a no-brainer for the investors of a publishing house. They will not even consider POD as an option. They will print up 20,000 copies instead. Then stock them in their warehouse.

The thought of producing two runs of the same book, just with some different spellings, would make an acquisitions editor cringe. It would just not be doable.

And, it really is not needed. Joe Abercrombie, Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, R.K. Rowling, and a host of other British authors are selling fine in the U.S. without having two different English versions.

I don't think your sales will be bothered by it.

Maxwell Alexander Drake
Read the first five chapters of my award-winning fantasy saga at

message 6: by Keryl (last edited Jul 13, 2011 11:46AM) (new)

Keryl Raist (kerylraist) | 54 comments See, I'd assume that if you had someone else publishing for you, they'd tell you what version of English they want.

Meanwhile, if you are self publishing I'd assume you'd want to avoid idiot reviews like "The author barely knows how to spell."

message 7: by Maxwell (new)

Maxwell Drake (maxwell_alexander_drake) | 80 comments Both statements are true. This is a fine line we walk between entertaining people, and having them hunt us down with torches and pitchforks.

Ah, crap! Gotta go! Another angry mob is on the way.

Maxwell Alexander Drake
Read the first five chapters of my award-winning fantasy saga at

message 8: by Keryl (new)

Keryl Raist (kerylraist) | 54 comments Maxwell wrote: "Both statements are true. This is a fine line we walk between entertaining people, and having them hunt us down with torches and pitchforks.

Ah, crap! Gotta go! Another angry mob is on the way.


Oh man! You pissed off the wrong group this time. They're shuffling along slowly and shouting out 'Brains! Brains!'

message 9: by Maxwell (new)

Maxwell Drake (maxwell_alexander_drake) | 80 comments Oh, is that what they are saying? In that case, they are probably just fans of my new graphic novel series, Dead Ned - A Wild Undead West Adventure. This is one of three collabrative projects I am working on with Magic the Gathering Artist, Cyril van der Haegen.

(Shameless plug, I know. It is not officially out until next year. But, you can see a promo for it on my website at

Now if you will excuse me, I need to sign some autographs for them...

Yes, yes... brains and all that... Nice makeup. Now, where would you like me to sign?... Don't crowd now, there is plenty of me to go around... Really, you are all pushing in too close... HEY! Did you just try to bite me?... Back! I mean it... (Balls, what a crappy day to leave my zombie survival kit at home...) RUN!!!

Maxwell Alexander Drake
Read the first five chapters of my award-winning fantasy saga at

message 10: by Joe (new)

Joe Vadalma (JoeVadalma) | 25 comments It seems to me that location where the action takes place should dictate whether a writer should use American English or International English. I would laugh at a western where the cowboy hero called someone a "bloody so-and-so" unless he hailed from England. At the same time I think a medieval fantasy would use International English with a few "thees" and "thous" thrown in.

message 11: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl Landmark (clandmark) | 7 comments I'm Canadian and, of course, used to the International or UK version of English. But, my publisher is American, so, when I had my first book published, all of the editing suggestions changed my Canadian spelling to the American version, e.g. color vs. colour, humor vs. humour, etc. I didn't really have a problem with changing the spelling, but it just made it a little more time-consuming to make sure I didn't miss a Canadian-spelled word. Now, when I write, I try to use the American version. Since my books are fantasy, phrases aren't really a problem; it's more the spelling of certain words.

message 12: by Janet (new)

Janet Carpenter (jancarpenter55) | 9 comments Perhaps it is a personal preference, however, I love reading UK English. It alters the tone of the story in ways that are hard to describe. When I read UK English, it gives me an "old world" sense and draws me more deeply into the world of the story, simply because it is different than my own language. (I am born and raised American, so there is quite a difference in colloquialisms and general tone of the language differences).

When I write a character that tends to be somewhat wicked, flamboyant, proper or has a personality different from the main characters, UK English or accents from other countries always does the trick for me to portray their unique characteristics.

So, to answer your question, I don't think that writing in your native language would detract or frustrate a reader. In point of fact, it would add to your story's charm as well as you as a writer. I know it does for me. In some instances, the words may become difficult for some to assimilate, but isn't our aim as writers to also educate people in new words and phrases? I know my mother always made me look up in the dictionary, words that I didn't understand. My vocabulary is quite large as a result. Thank you, Mom!

Some worlds are better built with unusual phraseology and terminology to solidify their reality in the reader's mind. After all, isn't that what we want to do as storytellers? Make it seem real.

back to top