British or American

I noticed something in my writing today that caught me by surprise, I used an Americanism. I couldn’t say why I suddenly noticed it, or why I used it (I’m British and would not consciously use an Americanism, just as I don’t use American spellings, no matter how much MS Word tries to get me to do so) but it froze me in place and I spent several seconds just staring at it.

The phrase in question was ‘hall closet’, which should, of course, have been ‘cupboard in the passage’.

I’ve fixed it now, but I’m left to wonder how many other phrases from the wrong side of the pond are lurking undiscovered in my writing. I can only assume that this has something to do with the number of American TV programs and films I have been watching.

Is this a problem unique to me, or is it something that other non US authors find themselves struggling with as a result of all the America cinema and television we have to contend with? I hope it’s a problems for others, just so I’m not unique.

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Noticing this issue has raised a question in my mind, should I be sticking with the Briticisms I feel most comfortable with, being British and setting my books in Britain, or should I be adapting the language I use, including the spellings, to make it more understandable to Americans, who are, after all the bigger market?

My natural instinct is to say no way in hell, GTFO Americans, learn proper English, but is that the attitude I should have? Should I not consider that if I want to be successful as an author I am probably going to have to make accomodations of one kind or another; did not Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone become Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for the American market – I suspect this was a decision made by the publishing company, but they do know the market better than the author, usually anyway.

Thoughts on a postcard please, or the comments section down below. Should I color my words to reflect that America is the center of my hopes for publishing success, or keep with British English and colour as the Queen commands?

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4 thoughts on “British or American

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  1. My thought is that language evolves. If it’s the first thing that sprung to mind, it’s probably the direction the language is going. I don’t think I’d spend too much time sifting through novels looking for “right or wrong.” The language IS going to get a lot closer, as communication becomes more instant. One of the hazards of writing in a living language.

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    1. That’s true, language changes faster than we realise if we’re not paying attention to it, so it’s best to make sure what I write is understandable rather than worrying which country it comes from.

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  2. I have the opposite problem! I’m Australian, but my books are set in the US. I had to think long and hard about which spelling I wanted to use. In the end I decided mostly Australian spelling, unless it would be a word so different it would cause confusion – like ploughed/plowed or hiccoughed/hiccuped. I have specifically chosen editors that are from the US to pick up non-US phrases, like “tied” vs “laced” her shoes.

    So, I guess my advice is to do what feels right. No one has complained yet. :p

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    1. Thanks, so far I’ve stuck with British English because it makes it easy on me, I suspect I’ll stay with it, unless I’m given a very good reason to do otherwise. I guess when it comes to spelling there’s not much of a problem, Americans can cope with British spelling, it’s the phrases I’m going to have to worry about, consistency is probably more important than whether I go with American or British.

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