British English or American English??

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19 Responses

  1. Also there’s often an ‘s’ missing in American English – Math, toward, forward. We Brits always add an ‘s’ on the end!

    • Interesting! As a Canadian, we typically follow British English, but that math one is not a common one for us. We normally just say “math.”
      We normally says towards, though. As I’ve been learning to write, “American,” I’ve struggled with the towards/toward one.

  2. bowmanauthor says:

    Ah, yes, “maths”, I struggled with that one a little, but not much. As an American editor who edits English globally, I love the differences in American and British English as well as Australian and even New Zealand. What I want to add to Shawn’s astute, well written blog is that there’s so much more than just spelling. The vocabulary is totally different and so is the punctuation. As a real Brit-Lit fan, classics and modern, I am well-versed in lovely little British words like “loo” for bathroom and “bonnet” for the trunk of my car. I could go on and on and on. Quotation marks are single in British, which we Americans call apostrophes, and double in the U.S. Canadians have a dialect of their own as well, with the influence of French and German, depending on which province you’re from. Where it becomes important is in the dialogue. A Englishman must speak like one from the part of the U.K. he’s from. Americans as well. The Southerners in the U.S. certainly don’t speak like Northerners. “We” almost need interpreters at times. I love to giggle at some of the phraseology from other global English-speaking cultures. The Aussies tak’ ta’prise (prize), mates, for ta’bestest hoot!
    I love languages, words, and dialects. My latest book is historical, and I wrote in four distinctly different dialects to “flavor” the dialogue with authenticity. If you want your characters to jump off the page, the voices have to be heard in the mind as well as expressed in the black text upon a stark, white page. It takes much research; I read documents from the mid-1600s for my characters. Not all writers, agents, publishers subscribe to this realism, but I believe the research is worth it. I respect the Diana Gabaldon’s and Val MacDermid’s, and Elizabeth George’s of the industry, and as an Editor, I respect the culture of your characters.

  3. Willow Croft says:

    I struggle with this all the time…because I read a lot of vintage editions as a kid (I taught myself how to read, along with a lot of other self-education.). And the spelling was usually British. (Which is why I’m hoping to move to Canada, at least, if not Scotland. *laugh*)

  4. colonialist says:

    I had a challenging edit recently. The book switched between a first person document written in the past in or near Britain, and a first-person narrative with the characters and action in America. After some failed experiments using one form of writing/spelling/idiom or the other, the inevitable solution was to switch between both as appropriate.

  5. colonialist says:

    It would have saved me a lot of time if I’d had your lists!

  6. colonialist says:

    As another footnote, I am certain that the author and I would have received criticism had we opted for only one spelling and grammar. There are also numerous traps like a ‘flat’ in London or ‘an apartment’ in New York, or calling a cab or a taxi, or using a lift or an elevator, or walking on pavement or sidewalk, or roundabout versus traffic circle.

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