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Reader's Station > Should books be labelled British/Canadian/Aussie spelling?

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message 1: by Peggy (new)

Peggy (peggyi) | 2 comments I've seen books lately that received very poor reviews from people who complained about spelling mistakes when the writer is obviously a British or Canadian or Australian who uses different spelling and grammar.

So should the book descriptions have some kind of clear label so people don't freak out when they see the word favourite or manoeuvre?


message 2: by M.A. (new)

M.A. Demers | 36 comments As a Canadian I find this a common topic for discussion. Some publishers will release different versions in different jurisdictions for precisely this reason, Harry Potter being one example. I have colleagues who elect to use only American spelling since Commonwealth readers are more forgiving of foreign spelling: they realise it isn't an error. Personally, I wrote by first novel, Baby Jane, in Canadian English because the book is set in Canada, and so far I have had no complaints from U.S. readers. Perhaps the complaints you mention are arising because the errors are not limited to regional spelling variations but to a more pervasive problem within the book?

I wouldn't put in a disclaimer in the book description; that strikes me as silly. And I'm not sure a reader who doesn't know these regional spelling variations exist would be enlightened by a disclaimer.


message 3: by Karen (new)

Karen (karenwb) | 10 comments I have faith that most readers can figure that out for themselves. :)


message 4: by Ian (last edited Jun 14, 2012 02:50PM) (new)

Ian Loome (lhthomson) | 68 comments Karen wrote: "I have faith that most readers can figure that out for themselves. :)"

So did I, until I published a couple of books with Canadian/Brit spellings but largely for an American audience and had every difference labelled a typo by my first proofreader.

Now my books are proofed and labelled as "this book uses U.S. spellings of most common words." Avoids issues later.

I did have one person tell me this was patronizing but compared to the number who have pointed out spelling mistakes that didn't exist (i.e. colour, favour) it seemed better to shift to the spellings used by the majority and mark work as such.

I don't doubt that the most intelligent people don't need the help. But they also don't make up the majority of readers.


message 5: by M.A. (new)

M.A. Demers | 36 comments L.H.

The mistake was yours if you didn't specify to your proofreader that you were not using U.S. spelling especially if you hired an American editor, and the editor you hired should have asked. As an editor myself I always ask my client what language they are using and I always check the language in the Word doc they usually supply to me to see if they screwed things up there themselves. I keep style guides and dictionaries for American, Canadian, and British English.

In the absence of proper communication, your proofreader/editor will make assumptions, which isn't good for either party.


message 6: by Marina (new)

Marina Fontaine (marina_fontaine) | 54 comments Wouldn't most people know from Author's Bio that you're not an American?

My Economics prof in college (granted, over 20 years ago) was from Egypt and he would take off points for not using "u" in "labour" in our essays.

In all seriousness, if people are ignorant enough to not know about British spelling, it's their loss.


message 7: by Rob (new)

Rob Osterman (robosterman) | 168 comments For editors/ proofers that should be on your style sheet. Just like you list how you spell major character names and locations as well as conventions, you should note that you use "British" spellings.

When it comes to "reviews" on the other hand, there's only so much you can do. Just remember that these people would also mark down Tolkien for refering to Elven Armour.


message 8: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Herfst (stephen_herfst) | 53 comments I don't believe they should be categorised (categorized), as the average human can understand both spellings.


message 9: by Peggy (new)

Peggy (peggyi) | 2 comments M.A. wrote: "...Perhaps the complaints you mention are arising because the errors are not limited to regional spelling variations but to a more pervasive problem within the book?..."

Nope, the book (not mine) has been professionally edited, and professionally proofread. It's actually in pretty great shape. I went through it last week and found 2 errors, a missing comma and a period outside the quotes. That's it.

Mind you I can imagine that the first time an American saw the word manoeuvre they would be as surprised as I was when I got it in a spelling bee. ;)

I guess there's not much a person can really do except give up and use American english.


message 10: by Marina (new)

Marina Fontaine (marina_fontaine) | 54 comments People are still reading Ian Fleming with no problem (although the first time I saw the word "kerb" I was stymied until I got the context:))

I think the problem nowadays is that there are SO MANY poorly edited books that readers assume the worst, vent in the reviews, and innocent authors get caught in the crossfire, so to speak.


message 11: by Geoffrey (new)

Geoffrey Wakeling | 13 comments Now, this is an interesting topic. I'm a British author and this has definitely crossed my mind. I've stuck to British spellings in my novel, but have often wondering whether American readers might be put off by different spellings, not allowing them to immerse themselves in the story as much.

I haven't had any actual complaints so far, and my description clear sets the tale in Britain - hopefully this will help people prepare their minds for some extra vowels ;)


message 12: by Mhairi (new)

Mhairi Simpson (mhairisimpson) | 28 comments As a British author I intend to stick to British spelling unless and until someone whose opinion is relevant (such as an editor) makes a compelling case for a different tactic. Until then, I'll stick to British.


message 13: by Sadie (new)

Sadie Forsythe | 15 comments I'm in the reverse position to most here I think. I'm an American used to American English living in the UK. I had a professor tell me recently that it didn't matter where you were from, you should use the spelling of the audience you intend to present your work to. In this case it was an essay intended for a Uk university. Easy enough. Not so easy to do for a book that could be purchased or shipped anywhere in the world. The most you can do is hope the reader knows there are regional spellings and accept that you have no control over it.

And no I don't think that there should be a label. That is just one more thing to keep track of and find an inconspicuous place for. Where would you put it, on the cover? There isn't a lot of room for such things. It will clutter it up. Do you add a disclosure statement in the beginning? Will people read it? If not, does that really solve the problem?


message 14: by Mhairi (new)

Mhairi Simpson (mhairisimpson) | 28 comments And of course, does that mean every book has to be reworked for the various spelling conventions? I would say just read it and be aware of different spelling conventions. i.e. there are a number of countries which speak English as a first language. Deal with it.


message 15: by Red (new)

Red Haircrow (redhaircrow) | 24 comments No, I don't agree with a work being poorly rated because of the differences of English types, as you say, American to British or Australian.

I recently published works by a Welsh colleague whose work were based on characters in the U.K. which would naturally use local dialects and UK spellings. I placed a disclaimer at the beginning that it was written with British spellings mostly for those readers who want something written to their personal specifications who don't also seem to understand there are different types of English in the world.

As a reader who has moved between cultures around the world, and understands several languages and different dialects of English, I usually read about the author in some way before starting to read. Where they are from can tell me about spellings, wherever I've picked up the book. For example, just bought an American work from a British publisher purchased here in Germany.

As a writer, though I primarily write in English most of my characters or subjects are non-English natives. Though I use American English spellings, for me to change the character's inflections, word choice or grammar structure to standard American English choices would completely lose the essence of their ethnicity. Even if a German speaks perfect English for example, some word choices will always be different. This can be reflected in writing.

I've had some editors/publishers who had started correctly such non-native English uniqueness and I explained to them why it was written that way, and said I preferred they not change it. They understood and complied.

In some ways, it just seems a really ethnocentric view of one's own dialect of English to me. Why should a British writer change all their spellings for an American publisher, unless the publisher expressly demands it be done? Why should an American do so for a British publisher? Well, a basic answer is "if you want to get published you'll do it", I know that, but for the base question itself: I think a reader should be able to ascertain and accept the differences, because the work can still be understood. If they can't, it then becomes personal peeve.


message 16: by Marina (new)

Marina Fontaine (marina_fontaine) | 54 comments @Red: You may not agree, but from other author's experiences it does seem to happen. On the other hand you're right and a British author will probably have other differences in his writing that might rub an American the wrong way. OR readers might appreciate this different style. There's really no way to control it.


message 17: by Red (last edited Jun 24, 2012 11:08AM) (new)

Red Haircrow (redhaircrow) | 24 comments Masha wrote: "@Red: You may not agree, but from other author's experiences it does seem to happen. On the other hand you're right and a British author will probably have other differences in his writing that mig..."

Just because I didn't definitively address that specifically doesn't mean I am not aware of it having been done. I am. As a reviewer and publisher, I do watch trends and read opinion, though I would never change anything I write based on opinion of that type. I do understand the reasons why someone would/might, and the reason behind the disclaimer I added for a client's work.

As for readers who do so? Again, I think its based on wanting things just to suit themselves. There's no control over that either, so I don't know why expect it. But :-) it can be their way of control and consequences to negatively rate a work based on different spellings as a way of showing personal piqué. When you look at it that way, it might be hard, but I feel should be more easily dismissable since someone would be that insular.


message 18: by Grace (new)

Grace Elliot (httpwwwgoodreadscomgraceelliot) | 8 comments Stephen wrote: "I don't believe they should be categorised (categorized), as the average human can understand both spellings."

Truly, you would think so wouldn't you, but this isnt the case. Believe me, I speak from experience!


message 19: by Tellulah (new)

Tellulah Darling (tellulahdarling) Can I get some opinions please since I'm coming up against this now?

Writing YA, I set my first novel (in my head, not actually mentioned) in generic US. Well, apparently, despite being vetted by an American, my Canadiana came through and reviewers were wondering where it was set. A couple tiny details that caused them to wonder. Some looked me up, saw I was Canadian and decided that's where it must be set.

Question then: for my next series, which I also figured would be US - do I just set it firmly in Canada? And if so, does it matter that I'm using US spelling because it's already been written and most of my readers are probably in the US. Or do I set it in US and vet it better? Honestly, the location matters not beyond generic North America.

But I don't want to bump people out of the story. Thanks!


message 20: by Jackie (new)

Jackie Jones (jackiejones) | 2 comments I've been thinking of this recently and have been wondering how to approach it as well. I'm Barbadian and we use UK English. One of my series is set in Europe so that's okay, but my actual first release is set in a fictional US town.

Reading through your comments has given me a lot to think about. Still considering my final decision, but thanks a lot everyone.


message 21: by chucklesthescot (new)

chucklesthescot I've seen reviews where American readers mark books down for bad spelling or call the writer/editor 'dumb' for all the mistakes/things that don't make sense to them etc without being aware that the book is set in the UK. Mind you, even if you wrote *THIS BOOK WAS WRITTEN IN THE UK AND WE TALK DIFFERENTLY FROM YOU*, some reviewers still wouldn't notice!


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