Only in the English Language

I am ashamed to admit it, but when I first starting writing Ankhari (my first novel) I used American english (well I attempted to anyway). As you may or may not know, I am not American, I am, in fact, Australian and as such we use British English (with a few unique Aussie inclusions).

Why, I hear you asking, would I have attempted such a feat? Well, here in Australia we are quite used to reading books by American authors, and as such I thought that if I was hoping to compete against these books in an American market, my book should be written in their language. Also my book is set in America with an American protagonist!

If you are confused as to exactly what I am referring to here are some examples.

First of all there are the words that we spell differently (don’t worry I am not planning on listing all of them):
Mum/Mom
Colour/Color
Synthesised/Synthesized

Then there are the words that don’t even exist in the other language (or even worse have a different meaning entirely):
nappy/diaper
torch/flashlight
petrol/gas
serviette/napkin

Then there are the differences between the Metric and Imperial systems:
metres/feet
grams/pounds
degrees Celsius/degrees Fahrenheit

I think you get the picture.

After writing the first draft of my novel I realised (ah there is another one!) what a ridiculous task this was – there was no way I would be able to do it well. So I went back through my book and I changed all the words back, all the measurements, everything. I figured, that if my book was ever sold in America that the publisher could fix the book if they saw fit!

Now, however, the conundrum is back! I am seriously considering the self-publishing route for Ankhari, and as such I have to choose a language.

So, now I need your help. I am after your opinion. Does a book about an American need to be in the corresponding language? Will American’s happily read a book written in British English?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

The Exasperated Novelist

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6 responses to “Only in the English Language

  1. I’m not American either, I’m Australian like you. But I have an opinion on this anyway, based on a number of books I’ve read that are likewise written by Australian authors.

    My thought is that If your novel is set in the US, with an American protag, and you want to sell books in the US, you should use the American versions of words. But don’t try to write that way – you’ll only confuse yourself. Changing it over is a pretty simply matter for a spellcheck set to American English, the Find/Replace function, and a really good proofread.

  2. If the book takes place in America, then in my opinion it should be written in that language. If the characters don’t sound American, it just won’t be believable. I have read books in British English that I enjoyed very much (even if I didn’t understand all the words), but they took place in England. It’s hard to get into a book if you know people don’t really speak that way in your native land.

    • Thanks for your thoughts Tiffany. I have been leaning towards going back to American English for a while now (it does seem particularly weird when my American teenager calls her mother, Mum instead of Mom!). I will probably just have to get an American to give it a final proofread to make sure I haven’t missed anything!

    • Hi Tiffany. What type of books do you read/write. I am currently looking for a critique partner – don’t know if you would be interested. I write YA (well all three of my WIPs fit into that category anyway), ranging from mild fantasy/romance to contemporary. I read anything (although I probably wouldn’t be very useful critiquing literary fiction as most of the time I just don’t understand it!). Anway, let me know if you would be interested. You can email me at jodymoller [at] virginbroadband [dot] com [dot] au. Jody

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