American English

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Before I get in to my subject I would like to state I’m not having a pop at Americans, I know a few they are nice people (apart from Donald Trump). That last sentence was a bit misleading; I don’t know Trump.

American English can cause a lot of problems for authors from the UK. I know of some getting reviews on Amazon stating their books are full of grammar and spelling mistake when in fact it’s just the difference between English and American English. I recently asked an author who sells a lot of book in the USA about this and she told me she does get the odd complaint about corn feed horses (corn being wheat and barley in the UK but corn on the cob in the USA). I have also heard of some publishers insisting books are in American English even if the author is from the UK.

At the present I have given in and am writing my book in American English. My reason being if I ever publish is more likely to sell in the USA, however there is one word I refuse to use and its mom. I don’t know why but it really irritates me, It’s a U not and O! I have been a bit cowardly and not used mum either, I’ve opted for mother, I think that is safe in both countries!

I would be very interested to hear other writer’s opinion on this.

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42 thoughts on “American English

  1. It’s a tricky one, isn’t it? I think if your audience is primarily American, it makes sense to use American English. Also, English readers are more likely to identify the differences between the two and not assume that you have made errors. I have an American character and I debated whether I should use American spellings for his dialogue. I decided against it in the end as I personally felt it only confused matters, but it is certainly an interesting thought.

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  2. I write from what I observe of people, their feelings and my own, stirred up and blended, with a touch of what I know. I am British and been around a while, write in the language I was taught, grew up with and think in, for me the only way to go. When I read American authors of contemporary fiction I quickly tune in to their take on the English language, but do baulk at their apparent need to use the f-word every f”^*ing page!

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    1. I wrote the article a few weeks ago, and been having second thoughts that I might be doing the wrong thing. I have two f words in my book, if you buy it I’ll let you know the offending page numbers to you can skip them!

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  3. I grew up reading Agatha Christie books (I am American) and you just learn along the way that there are differences. Most are pretty obvious or else just a matter of a slightly different spelling (although I will admit that “counterpane” threw me for YEARS…) Bill Bryson has his books marketed in both places with either UK or American references etc. depending on where they are sold.

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  4. I don’t really think about it much. Being British, I always write in British English. Any book I publish would state in my bio that I am British so I would expect readers to realise that certain words are said and written because of that.
    On the other hand, I did enter a writing competition in the States and some of the feedback I got was that some of the words I used were confusing. I used ‘Motorway’ instead of ‘Freeway’, amongst other words. I was marked down because of it. It’s put me off entering writing competitions other than those set here in the UK. However, to the judges credit, they had no idea I was British.

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  5. I like what Derrick said. Be consistent.
    I’m American, and yes, if I was reading a book that switched from mom to mum, color to colour, line to que, cigarette to fag, and freeway to autobahn, I would be confused. Now, if I knew from the beginning, I’m reading a British author, then I know ahead of time there may be slang I won’t understand.

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  6. I am laughing at the thought that I’ve been annoying the heck out of you all this time and didn’t know it. You could always try Mama as a compromise.

    You’ll also definitely want to find an American critique partner before sending it out. Unusual idioms can be just as distracting as perceived spelling issues.

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    1. I think it’s part of the job description of Americans to annoy the English. Most of us still don’t understand why you would want to be independent from the crown. It’s not too late by the way you can always rejoin the empire. After reading everyone’s comments I’ve changed my mind as you imply it’s not just the odd spelling. I’m going to swap back.

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  7. Eric, being an American, I can only say that I understand what you are expressing in your blog. American English (if we can even call it that anymore; most don’t even speak that) is difficult. Even American’s struggle with it. I had, at one point in my life, planned on living in England (long story) but that didn’t work out. Beforehand, I did my best to learn all I could about the differences in our cultures and speech, even though others told me there was no language barrier. HA! What I learned was quite the opposite. I love English. If I had my way, we Americans would be speaking old world ENGLISH, not American.

    The only piece of advice I can give you, is to make sure you have a short bio at the beginning of your book, maybe on the back cover or one of the first pages of the book, stating that you are an Englishman but have endeavored to write your book using American English for the ease of your anticipated American followers. Having said that, let it go.

    Btw, I love the word mum for mother. I think it is a much better word than mom (mahm – phonetically speaking). Best wishes on your book.

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  8. I forgot to mention that my proofreader/editor is English and lives in the UK. Used to teach at university (retired now). He’s a long time friend of mine. We sure had a time at the beginning but eventually he got used to my phrases and spelling. Every now and then he still comes back with “Is this an American spelling?” LOL I love it.

    Another thought is that you could have a glossary of terms in the back of the book and simply write your story in your own dialect (if I may call it that). I did that in a book I wrote which had a lot of medical jargon in it.

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