04 June, 2013

Faerie Prince Book Tour: A Guest Post By Rachel Morgan On Writing For An International Audience

Hello, everyone! Today I have the honor of hosting author Rachel Morgan, who is here to talk about writing for people in the connected world of the web. Take it away, Rachel!


Writing for an International Audience

I'm a South African living in South Africa, which means I write and speak British English (we like to add extra letters to our words and use "s" instead of "z". Like neighbour instead of neighbor, and realise instead of realize). I wrote my first novel using British spelling, because that's the way I'd always written words. But when I started writing books that I knew I was going to epublish through Amazon, I figured the majority of my audience would be US readers. (There are people in South Africa who read ebooks, but we're way behind the US in that regard.) So ... I decided to switch to US spelling.

The thing is, the difference doesn't stop at spelling. We use different words as well, and I didn't always realis/ze that while I was writing! Fortunately, my critique partner lives in the US and she pointed out the differences as she went through my manuscript. I remember a particularly confusing email exchange about a plug in a bathroom, because she thought I was referring to an electrical plug (what is your character plugging in?) while I was referring to the plug you put in the bath to stop the water running out (oh, you mean a stopper, she said).

Here are some other examples of words I changed after the first draft:

post = mail
zip = zipper
bath = bathtub (I even asked for suggestions on Facebook about what word to use for the noun bath! People were very helpful.)
icing = frosting (although it seemed to me from my Googling that US writers use both icing and frosting, so I stuck with icing in the end)
sweet = candy

And there are a whole lot of other word differences that I didn't use in this novel but that I have to remember in future writing (like bonnet = hood and chips = fries).

If you're a writer, have you had to consider these spelling/word differences before when thinking about your intended audience? If you're a reader, do you notice whether the book you're reading has US or UK spelling, or do you just read the book?

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Rachel Morgan is the author of the newly released YA paranormal fantasy The Faerie Prince, second novel in the Creepy Hollow series. You can find it at the following online retailers (and if you haven't yet read the first book, The Faerie Guardian, you can find out where to get it on this page):



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Rachel Morgan was born in South Africa and spent a large portion of her childhood living in a fantasy land of her own making. After completing a degree in genetics, she decided science wasn’t for her—after all, they didn’t approve of made-up facts. These days she spends much of her time immersed in fantasy land once more, writing fiction for young adults.


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24 comments:

Murees Dupé said...

I am from South Africa too! I had the exact same problem when I started writing and many times I still confuse people on my blog by using these unfamiliar words. When it comes to my novels though, I changed everything to American spelling as well, as that is the type of market I write for.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I lived in London for a while and I can think of a lot of words that are different, like trunk and boot. Good thing you had a critique partner in the US.

Angela Brown said...

When I first started writing, I participated in an online crit group that had a lot of British writers often critting my samples. I attempted to use plop on one occasion and quickly removed it as one critter thought I was referring to a bodily function. Other words were pointed out to me and I was able to do the same in return.

Rachel Morgan said...

Thanks so much for hosting me today, Golden Eagle!

Murees - so great to meet another South African author!

Alex - I'm so grateful to have had a US critique partner.

Angela - A bodily function? Haha! It can be rather amusing when we cross cultures and misunderstand each other!

Adam said...

It's funny how many word differences there are. Fries, elevator, to name a few.

Mack Makatozi said...

Sounds cool! Yeah my mom is British so I hear that stuff all the time! lol

Pat Hatt said...

The words can be a pain to differ indeed.

Jack said...

Really? We are supposed to call it stopper and not plug? I've been calling it plug my whole life, and I was born in the States. *Grin*

I use British spelling in my books, well the ones I know. This might be naughty, but I for some reason cannot resist.

I will have to see if I can find your book! I'm always looking for good ones about fairies.

Elliot Grace said...

...how interesting. To some it's slang, to others, proper. Some call it misspelled, while others are able to find it in the dictionary ;)

El

Charles Gramlich said...

Because I grew up reading a lot of British SF, I started out spelling quite a few words in the English way. i still like sulphur better than sulfur, spectre better than specter, and grey better than gray.

JeffO said...

I remember as a kid one of the first times I read a more adult work from an English writer, and it was 'bloody this' and 'bloody that,' and I had no idea what he was talking about. I figured it out fairly quickly, though. Every so often, a word or phrase will make me stop and say, "Wait, what?" but it doesn't bother me.

Holy Ghost Writer said...

Languages can be tricky

Maurice Mitchell said...

I love when my spellchecker tries to correct the spelling from other places. Yes, Mr. Computer flavour is spelled right. Great points Rachel.

C. Lee McKenzie said...

I find that people in my crit group who live on the east coast often question some of my slang or word choice. I'm only one continent away and I still talk "funny" to them. :-)

Rachel Morgan said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone!

I have to admit that when I'm writing blog posts these days (after having written US-spelled novels), I find myself using an unintentional mixture of US and UK spelling!

Samuel Bledsoe said...

When I leave the US, I realize I speak English incorrectly. I used to work with Jamaicans whose English is also very similar to British English. And New Zealand is the same way. I feel silly though, because I thought South Africans spoke a form of Dutch.

michelle said...

I'm also South African.
There are loads of other words we use differently, like
robot = traffic lights
tomato sauce = ketchup
biscuits = cookies
cool drink = soda
dummy = pacifier
Thank you Rachel, you've given me something to think about when writing for an international audience...
Hi Golden Eagle! *waving*
Writer In Transit

Paul Tobin said...

As a person who lives in England I have to agree with Rachel about how the language is different. I think the discussion illustrates just have plural the language is even in one country. Interesting post.

Michael Offutt, "Johnny on the Spot" said...

Oh definitely I've done some research this way. But us Americans still use "icing" and not "frosting". It's kind of 50/50. And we do the same for soda vs. pop. Quite a bit of the British lexicon has influenced us.

Sandy said...

Yes a bonnet means a hat that a small baby wears usually in the US. Sweets can be cake, pie, ice cream far more then just candy. I think more us use icing then frosting in general conversation.
Oozing Out My Ears

Jai Joshi said...

It's funny because a lot of British words have or are making it back into American lingo. Like "wicked", and "mate". I think it depends on what region of America you're in also.

Jai

....Petty Witter said...

A fascinating and insightful post with some great advice.

Differences in spellings don't generally bother me but at times I think they are inappropriate. I recently read a novel in which the main character was Beatrix Potter and was dismayed that the author chose to use Americanisms to give voice to such a quintessentially English woman.

Well done and happy reading to your list of winners.

nutschell said...

Rachel, I had no idea you were South African! Lovely post!
Nutschell
www.thewritingnut.com

RaShelle Workman said...

Yeah, I love reading stories from other cultures. There's something sexy about going to the loo instead of just the plain old bathroom. LOL