Differences in the English Language

Hey all,

I am always very aware that a) I am Irish (hard to forget that one) b) I live in England but crucially c) I write for a predominantly American market.

As I work away, I constantly wonder whether I should write in US English. But perhaps the US publishers won’t like it and I’ll try to sell it in the English market. Plus, it actually feels wrong to write in a different ‘language’, going against the grain as it were.

Words such as ‘forwards, towards, backwards’ make me stop to think. Over here we would say ‘go forwards to the traffic lights’ and in the US, it is ‘go forward to the traffic lights’. (Don’t get me started on punctuation, that’s another post lol). Some of my most valued critique partners are in the US too. Perhaps I should put a disclaimer on my work ‘warning this is written in UK English’.

Another example I recently came across is that the US call their gardens ‘yards’ and I just found out recently they didn’t mean a tarmacadam (do you have tarmacadam in the US or is it asphaslt?) area :). Cookies for biscuits (still taste as good in any language!), movie for film (although movie is taking over methinks, especially when it’s up against the Irish pronunciation of ‘filum’), sidewalk for path, vacation instead of holiday. Heck, there are probably hundreds of them. Even just spelling, favo(u)rite, flavo(u)r, and oooh do you put in a ‘z’ or an ‘s’ such as analyse/analyze? Title differences, Mrs versus Mrs. I received my edited manuscript back and had to add all these full stops/periods everywhere. Fun :).

Any more examples I should be aware of before I submit my next mansucript? And what would you do if you were me — write in American English or UK English?

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  1. I would continue to write in UK English because that is your voice and your style…and personally I always enjoy reading the differences while I’m enjoying a book. It’s a tidbit of flavor and a different culture.

    Fun post Cait :)

  2. Okay thank you Christine :) (is there a ‘like’ button somewhere for comments?!)

  3. I love reading the English (UK) language versions because it just seems more “proper’ to me with the extra ‘u”. I’d never heard the word “tarmacadam,” only asphalt. LOL And all the other different words–like bonnet for hood of a car, and is it “nappies” for diapers? It really is a different language in many respects. I guess as far as writing it would depend (a) on how comfortable you are writing in US English and (b) setting. If it’s predominantly England, go with UK. If the States, go US. But mostly whatever you’re comfortable writing. That’s hard enough as it is without trying to translate. :)

    Great post, Cait!

  4. stick with the US version – it’s fun! Other differences: university vs. college (most of us call it ‘college’, even if we go to a big university)…One of bebe’s new fave shows is a UK import called Charlie and Lola, in which the characters still speak in a UK accent. So she goes around talking about throwing fetes and adding ‘er’ sounds to the ends of some words. She’s too funny!

    • Oh my girls and I LOVE Charlie and Lola…Lola is just fabulous. I’ll happily watch it over and over, rare enough for a children’s programme :). LOL maybe I’ll write it Lola-ese :)

  5. Jennifer Lowery

     /  November 12, 2012

    UK English for sure! I love reading it! And, that is your voice so go with it! Great post :)

  6. Definitely UK English. I picked up a ton of words I love to use from reading Rosamunde Pilcher and Elizabeth Young – two of my most favorite authors. I also prefer to use the English “ll” for travelled, etc.

    • It’s funny isn’t it, I think ‘traveled’ just misses something. It’s great to know all this, I have to say, really very good thanks.

  7. Sheri Fredricks

     /  November 12, 2012

    I think the “style” it should be written would depend largely upon where the story took place and whose POV it was in. An American in Ireland would still have American thoughts, for instance. But everyone around her would think and speak differently. :) Great Post!!

    • good point, thanks Sheri. Most of my heroines/heroes are English or Irish so I guess that’s that question answered. But brings another one, I must go Irish American next …oooh what will she be like? That will be fun!

  8. Hi Cait. I remember one of my UK crit partners (it might have been you, lol), objected to my character’s name (Camber). It means something over there on your side of the pond she (or maybe you) didn’t like. I’m sure there are lots of others. My opinion: write for the market you intend to sell to. Or maybe not. Or maybe so. Hmmmm.

    • LOL that was me :) it means a slightly arched surface over here. It wasn’t an objection, more an observation!! How funny. Was that the same story with the antimacassar too? LOL. Thanks for coming by, Callie.

  9. When you are Canadian – you are brought up in British English – but you watch American TV and read US ads which are in American English. Then there are the US words which have slipped into our vocabulary while we still have the British words.
    It’s like having two people yell at you – take the u out of color- put the u back in colour – take the u out…..argh!
    Stepping off my soap back and disappearing back into the mist.

    • Hey Daryl Devore (what a great name) it’s so very true — and what do you do? What’s that mist like, perhaps I shall have to just disappear too LOL. Thanks for coming along :)

  10. Oh, you caught my pet peeve with toward and towards. There are plenty of US English authors that make that mistake! If you live and think and write across the pond then I say stick with it!
    Interesting post!

  11. Cathie Dunn

     /  November 12, 2012

    Fabulous post, Cait. A really familiar conundrum. Highland Arms is in US, Dark Deceit in UK spelling. In the meantime, I’m almost on auto pilot for one or the other. Fun! ;-)

    • Thanks Cathie — tis a tough one, isn’t it. And to compound matters, I’m always having to stop the Irishness getting through too which is why most of my heroines have some sort of Irish connection lol. Thanks for coming by!

  12. Fun, fun post! I think that would have to be one of the hardest things. It’s one thing if I try to write a British character, but I’m still writing for an American audience but I think a British audience would be very peeved at my interpretation.

  13. Rionna Morgan

     /  November 12, 2012

    Hello Cait,

    My response is maybe one most wouldn’t think of. I am Irish as well…born in the US, but nonetheless. :) The word of issue I have is Celtic. Many–most in US–say Celtic with an s sound. I say it with a hard “C”. I actually have Celtic on my license plate, and I get questions about the Boston Celtics–the basketball team–all the time. Funny! I really enjoyed your post!!

    • Seltic?! Wow, I didn’t know that…that’s mad hey. Great to have it on your number plate though. Thanks for coming by Rianna!

  14. My brother-in-law is from England and I love listening to him talk. He’s been in the US for nearly 10 years so he’s pretty much Americanized. However, when he came over here he was stunned that we get our break out of cans. He was talking about the Grands biscuits (biscuits as not in cookies).

    When his family visits I could listen to them for hours. I love it when they use “cheeky”. And I discovered that our trash cans are your “dust bins”. Sometimes it really is like a different language. My brother-in-law has to translate at times.

    • Did not mean to write “break”. Meant to write “bread”. LOL. Sorry for the confusion. That was NOT a difference of language but my lack of proof reading.

      • LOL I was wondering was this a new phrase I hadn’t heard of — getting your break out of cans, was it like getting ‘the call’ or something. :) Thanks for coming by Sharon.

  15. My Advice: Write in your native “language” and make corrections for the market after it’s finished.

    As for the “u” in colour or harbour, I can read right over those and not skip a beat. When I hit the first one I figure the author is from England or Canada and just keep going. I don’t even think about it.

    In the U.S., we have macadam, but I’d never heard of tarmacadam. Asphalt to me is just pure tar, not the mixture that macadam contains. We do have “tar and chip” as a road surfacing material, too.

    I have no idea where the “S” sound in Celtic came from, and the only place I’ve ever heard it here is for the basketball team.

    I hear “towards / forwards” as much as “toward / forward” where I live, so that’s another I don’t even notice.

    Perhaps I’ve adjusted more since I grew up riding British motorcycles (I had a BSA – Birmingham Small Arms, not Boy Scouts of America) and had to do a bit of translation when reading the repair manuals. One of the biggest laughs I ever had was when some of the guys here would try to “wash the drive chain using paraffin.” Here, paraffin is candle wax, in the UK it’s what we call kerosene, in this case used as a solvent. But more than once I saw guys melting candle wax in a big bucket and dipping their motorcycle drive chain in it because that’s what the manual said. Not sure how well that worked out…

  16. that’s all good to know, thanks, that you can read English English and not let it bother you — some people can get wound up by it. Like I’m sure those guys did LOL. Thanks for coming by!

  17. Sorry, Just realized that we just call tarmacadam “tarmac” – a shortened form. I’m a little slow today. And most other days, too.

  1. ‘S’ or ‘Z’ | CombatBabe

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