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Topic: British vs. American

So English comes in two versions, the American version and the British version.  Most of the  differences are punctuation, like the type of quotation marks you use or the placement of a comma when doing dialogue,  but some of it is words.  In British version the rear storage compartment of a vehicle is a boot, but in American version it is a trunk.  There is also grey or is it gray, both spellings are correct, but one is American the other British.  So my question is if it isn't dialogue should you switch between versions of the words and is it okay to change the way the punctuation is used in your story?
Also should you explain things like 'boot' or allow the context of the sentence/paragraph explain it for you?

Disrespectfully yours,
Ian D. Mooby

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Re: British vs. American

If in dialogue, I let it flow as regional as I wish. Most readers know the two versions and can mentally shift between them. My writing software, Pro Writing Aid, insists I stick to one form or the other. So, if it's outside dialogue, I go for US spelling/punctuation. If inside, let the chips fall where they may.

boot = trunk
spanner = wrench
elevator = lift
windscreen = windshield
LABratory = laBORatory
etc.

Bill

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Re: British vs. American

There is my collection of it.

British = American

bourbon-ish = bourbonish
effective = affective
analyse (modern: analyze) = analize
analysed (modern: analyzed) = analized
artefacts = artifacts
cancelled = canceled
class (school) = grade
centimetre     = centimeter
centre = center
centred = centered
cliché = cliche
colour = color
Cristian = cristian (may written without a capital letter, if it is about various christian doctrines, e.g. it is not about a single origin of people or organizations)
diarhoea = diarrhea
décor = decor
film (as such) = movie (an entertainment film), film (a serious film, e.g. documentaries)
first-hand = firsthand
flat = apartment
flavour = flavor
gynaecologist = gynecologist
jam = jelly
haemorrhage = hemorrhage
honour = honor
kapellmeister (the one who conducts the orchestra music) = conductor, director, leader
knickers  = pants
learnt = learned
licence = license
licenced = licenzed
licencing = licenzing
localisation = localization
localise = localize
localised = localized
main road = highway
make-up = makeup
manoeuvre = maneuver
metre = meter
milimetre = milimeter
nappies = diapers
neighbour = neighbor
neighbourhood = neighborhood
odour = odor
offence = offense
on my own = by my own
on myself = by myself
orthopaedic = orthopedic
Osama (an Arabic name) = Asama
paranoias = paranoids
plug-in = plugin
practice = practise
practiced = practised
practicing = practising
professor = full professor
program = software (you can use any of it in both languages, but software is from American origin)
railroad = railway
railroader = railway worker
realise = realize
realised = realized
realised = realized
realising = realizing
road, lane = street
road hog = roadhog
rubbish = trash
rumour = rumor
rumoured = rumored
sceptic = skeptic
sceptical = skeptical
sci-fi = SCIFI
schoolmaster = principal
shoot-out = shootout
signalling = signaling
sinusoid = sinusoidal
skilfully = skillfully
snare (a drum as such) = drum
socio-economic = socioeconomic
sulphure = sulfure
tights, pantyhose (any of it, they are working as synonyms) = tights (insulated ones), pantyhose (transparent ones)
tranquillity = tranquility
travelled = traveled
voice-over = voiceover (you can use but the British version is also common)
utopians = utopias

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Re: British vs. American

That's an interesting point. I think the world is so intertwined by now that it doesn't particularly matter which you use, most Americans know, for example, that boot is the British equivalent of trunk, and vice-versa. Even if they don't, in context of the story, let's suggest the sentence was, 'I went to the car and opened the boot,' the reader can usually infer the meaning. Many readers will read writing from both American and British authors and perhaps with the odd exception of confusion, I think the languages are similar enough to understand. I think the important thing is consistency. If you start the novel American, end it American. If you start it British, end it British.

Part of me asks another question (as a British person): is it wiser for a British person to write in American, to be understood more easily? For example, if I knew Booksie to have more American readers than British readers?

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Re: British vs. American

That's an interesting list, Roman! It makes me wonder, how many people write in the opposing country's English (i.e. a British person writing the American equivalent) by accident! For example, many British people are brought up watching Hollywood movies (or should I say films?) and reading American authors, how many copy this in their own writing? It reminds me of my sister, who when she was younger used to make videos with an American accent.

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Re: British vs. American

I think if I'm honest I use both, although I'll try to stick to American as much as I can.

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Re: British vs. American

Obscure wrote:

That's an interesting list, Roman! It makes me wonder, how many people write in the opposing country's English (i.e. a British person writing the American equivalent) by accident! For example, many British people are brought up watching Hollywood movies (or should I say films?) and reading American authors, how many copy this in their own writing? It reminds me of my sister, who when she was younger used to make videos with an American accent.

Hollywood movies are most of fiction entertainment films for fun, but not serious documentaries or serious fiction (not at all). American English, as far as I know, often using in the UK. For example, American "gonna" in the conversational slang.

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Re: British vs. American

This issue has worried me in the past, but now I just write in British English because that is my native language, and that is the language recognised by both my spell checker and my grammar checker. Occasionally, a Booksie reader as tried to 'correct' my grammar, but that doesn't happen often. As a reader, I have read enough British and American books to become familiar with both versions of English. I like to think that most readers have developed the same ability. If not, there isn't much I can do about it. It would not be practical to add a definition to every word that might have a different meaning to Americans.

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Re: British vs. American

I have to say I have always written in my (British English) native tongue lol., and have never had any problems with our cousins across the pond understanding what I have written. and vice versa. If I was ever to write a story set in modern day America, or had an American character, then I would use American terms to give it that authentic feel.

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Re: British vs. American

English is a language that mugs other languages for words anyway so it's fairly fluid, and as others have pointed out both nations are quite familiar with each others languages. Sometimes old farts like me take umbridge when an Americanism is heard. For example when I was younger the English would go into a shop and say "Can I have a coffee?" Whereas now it is common place to hear people say "Can I get a coffee?"

It's just the influence of telly (or TV) on the language. Father Ted brought the Irish word Feck to prominence in England, and before that a programme called Porridge invented the swear words "Naff off" and  "You dozy scrote." It's all part of the growth of the language so I don't mind one way or the other.

I remember hearing that there was a great row during the build up to D-Day. The American delegation wanted something discussed that they thought was really important. The British delegation agreed and stated that it would be tabled. This annoyed the Americans who thought it was being put to one side, the British couldn't understand - they had after all put it on the table for discussion. So we are as they say two nations divided by a common language.

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Re: British vs. American

Celtic-Scribe63 wrote:

I have to say I have always written in my (British English) native tongue lol.

Someone called Celtic Scribe writing in British English - I'd say that was opening a can of worms in itself lol. Best not tell the Cornish.

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Just to clarify, my Celtic Scribe name refers to the Celtic time period and all of the Celtic speaking Peoples and their mythological stories, Which have inspired me and my writing, not any specific individual native speaking people. I hope that clears up any confusion about my name.
regards
Celtic-Scribe63

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Re: British vs. American

Kevin Broughton wrote:

It's just the influence of telly (or TV) on the language. Father Ted brought the Irish word Feck to prominence in England, and before that a programme called Porridge invented the swear words "Naff off" and  "You dozy scrote." It's all part of the growth of the language so I don't mind one way or the other.

That's not only in English. In the USSR were also Russian words and phrases invented by films/ TV shows. For example, Soviet film "Kin-Dza-Dza" has invented "qou-qou" for "Hello" (originally from the French slang). The film called "Gentlemen of Fortune" has invented "Radish" (Rediska) as a rude man. But, today, all of it is very rare using.

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I'm Scottish and I find my self sometimes slipping into the American spelling of things without even noticing, its only when someone else picks up on it that I notice.  My communications lecturer in college was forever underlining things

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A good rule of thumb that pro editors suggest is stick to what you start with.  If you start with British spelling, stick with it to the end of the story.  Likewise if you go with American.
Being Canadian, I was raised to use British spelling, but I live close enough to the US border to have picked up American spelling for certain words - mostly using a 'z' instead of an 's' in the middle of words such as 'recognized'.
But when using a word in a story, just make sure it's spelled the same way you spelled it in previous chapters/pages of that story.  So if you use both British and American spelling that's fine, so long as once you've established a word as written one way or the other, you don't interchange with the other spelling.  In other words, if you first spell the word as 'gray', then later on in the story, don't spell it as 'grey'.  Stick to what you've established.
As for regional terms, don't bother explaining.  If the reader doesn't understand what you mean within the context of the sentence or paragraph, it's a good time for them to do a quick Google search.

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Re: British vs. American

Jeff Bezaire wrote:

A good rule of thumb that pro editors suggest is stick to what you start with.  If you start with British spelling, stick with it to the end of the story.  Likewise if you go with American.

Of course. As a possible example of an exception, I would call any quotations of Americans in British text and vice versa. I don't think that you should change the original spelling into another.

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Re: British vs. American

If it's a direct quote that's quoting a written quote and not a spoken quote, then no, I wouldn't change the spelling or the punctuation.

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Re: British vs. American

I might be rong...but I do believe that there are two 's' in disrespectfully Ian...

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Re: British vs. American

I am an Asian, it is interesting for me to see people's discussion over this topic as an "outsider". I thought it would be only me, or "foreigners", have this kind of problem or question. I learned my English from American-educated teachers, but I've lived in a British background country for a while now. Since I moved to Australia, I quite often ran into a situation where my English got corrected on the American spelling, punctuation, and different usages from the local people, especially by the English teachers. To which I appreciated, and I don't mind, as that meant I could have a chance to improve my English. But when I got used to the British one, I would get "corrected" again by the American. And that can give me a probelm. As I will become a "hybrid"--use both and then going into not caring about both.

I have lived and worked with both British and American people, and read both of their writings. Personally, I prefer British English as it is more graceful and proper in both of their written and spoke language. Most of time, I read books or writings not for the plots but for the beauty of the words or languages they use. If I found both of the plot and languages are to my taste. I keep those books with me wherever I go or move. They will never end up in a bin or a 2nd-hand shop once i read them. But if I want to be more causal or carefree or try to "fit in", I would use American or Australian English. Such as shorter sentences or words, gotta, wanna, kinda, fucking, no woka, how ya, Gday, leave out this and that.. etc.

But honestly, I don't really care the little differences between British, American or Australian English. or which one you want to or have to use. (Or maybe I should care?) I think what is the most important thing is that we can understand each other, and be considerate for the receipt point of the readers as to how much you want them to understand you or you are simply just writing for your own fun or releasing your emotions; and let the art of commutation does the rest. Just like some painters or dancers do better than the other. So do writers. I agree with consistency.

To top it all, I find all of your writings are good and are better than mine. I may not have any right to make any opinion about English, as I am just an Asian, but thank you for reading till the end. : )

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What do you mean, Derina, you are 'just Asian'? Your native language is Mandarin. You have lived in America and have had to cope with American English. Now you live in Australia and have to cope with British English--yet you can write stories and poems that are humorous and spiritually uplifting (and sometimes a little bit grumpy). You should be proud of who you are. I do agree with you about one thing: it probably doesn't matter whether a story is written in British or American English, as long as it is understandable. As a writer, however, I think you will find it easier to choose one or the other kind of English, and stick to that. Otherwise, you could be confused by conflicting rules of grammar and never master either of them.

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Re: British vs. American

As a Russian, I think that any language with a lot of people has its standard in a particular territory. For example, Russian is in use in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Azerbaijan with a little different such as British or American English. Russian in Ukraine contains the word "rada" (parliament, from Ukrainian), although we don't use it in Russia (politicians want to ban Russian in this country). Russian in Belarus and Russian "in Russia" use a various name for Belarus country:
In Russia: Belorussia (with the same end as Russia).
In Belarus: The Republic Belarus.
There is a little holy-war between the right name of Belarus in a particular version of Russian. In Russia, especially in Moscow, for example, many people think that "The Republic Belarus" or "Belarus" is a bad language. However, in Minsk, people think that "The Republic Belarus" is proper. They consider that "Belorussia" is a bad version Russian in Belarus.
Also, "Belarus" is a tractor/ bulldozer manufactured in the Soviet era. People in Russia think that "Belarus" is a Soviet tractor, but not the name of the country. These things remind me of British English or American English. However, British and American have more differences than Russian because our countries are closer, and the UK and the US are farthest.

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Joe Stuart wrote:

What do you mean, Derina, you are 'just Asian'? You should be proud of who you are.

Thank you for this "reprimand". And the rest of the suggestions. I duly accepted it. I worked out today the reason for me to have this kind of "Yellow Asian complex" being that I have very little time to be on line each day, and I have trouble to read all the writings I like in a short time. I wish I can speed read and digest them all before more postings are coming. The amount of them are overwhelming to me. When I can't read a whole story in one go, I would feel very bad, as i don't know where I can come back to finish. I think that was why I wish to be a white and hope the problem can be resolved. BTW, in real life, there are several of my "white" friends say I have been very "racist" to them. I think I do sometimes. Ha