Writing in English – but what kind of English?

I’ve a personal preference for reading USA English, but grew up in New Zealand, and learned English based on the good old British based Oxford Dictionary.    Some of the forums I am actively visiting online have some interesting perspective going on around this issue as it relates to authors and what we write, and how we publish our work.   Primarily the issue of which version of English to publish in seems to be all around which country you most intend to market your work in.

If the bulk of your readers are USA based, then definitely write using USA English.  This means change most of your S’s to Z’s, lose most of your U’s, and some of your T’s.   For example:  Favourite, Omelette, and Antagonise become Favorite, Omelet, and Antagonize.   The reason for our language being so different is considered to be based on one Noah Webster’s decision once upon a time to ensure ourdifferences should be political as well as Lexically.   He went on to create the Websters Dictionary, and forced an ongoing divide in how we read and appreciate our language differently.

This means that when it comes to editing, our work as authors is a little less straightforward than we might want it to be.   This is because readers in each country have been known to be quite critical of errors in spelling when faced with too much of it.  A book that is not edited properly will be commented on, and often quite scathingly by readers.   Some will refuse to finish reading something that is too filled with errors – I have personally been known to discard a book half read due to frustration of grammar or spelling.

I believe a bigger issue comes about when one comes from places like Australasia or even other countries where English has been adapted further by locals over a number of decades and some rules apply to one style and some to another.   That’s when you get a complete mishmash of English and for many readers the inconsistency is the real problem.

What can we do about it?

Well for a start, use an editor who understands the rules, and appreciates the differences between each version of written English.  Decide which version you wish to use, and stick to that.

The value of a really good editor can not be underestimated.   While it’s more than ok for a blog to have a few errors of the grammatical variety, a book has to be better than that.   Why?  Simply because it’s going to be read by readers which nuch higher expectations of quality.  A blog is a quick item of information sharing, a book is a ‘book’ for goodness sake!   It has a longer life expectancy, and further reach than a blog.

Take the time to consider where your book is mostly going to be promoted, and decide on which version of English you will publish in based on that.   And then ensure your editor knows your intentions around this and has the skills to deliver on your expectations.

 

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