This post will cover an issue I face as a second-language writer. Through a mixture of influences, what I use is a mix of UK and US English. As I go on with drafting, I know I’ll face a decision on that matter regarding which variant I should lean towards.
Before I get to the options I could take, I’ll mention some of the cases where my habits are leaning to one or another variant.
I tend to use US variant in cases like ‘color’ (over ‘colour’ in UK English) but UK in other (I just can’t stand ‘ax’ over ‘axe’ for some reason). In some other cases like -sed suffix in UK / -zed in US or doubling letters (travelled for UK and traveled for US), I found myself having a different approach on word-by-word base and I understand this inconsistency can be potentially confusing for the reader.
When it comes to irregular verbs, I am leaning more towards UK variants but don’t seem to care for a particular version apart from two or three I find strange being irregular in US English. What US English does and I can’t seem to stand that is using a singular verb on some cases of collective nouns.
Now, what are my options?
A) Use US English exclusively
Since I already have spellcheck and Grammarly set to US English, this would be the path of least resistance. Many self-published books I’ve read were written in US English so it does not look like something that would make me a barbarian.
B) Use UK English exclusively
Switching to UK spelling would need a while to switch all the cases, though it would be easily done with good use of the search-and-replace function. It would solve several issues I have with some cases of US spelling but also probably force me to add the cases where I prefer UK spelling to autocorrect so I don’t need to do it manually later.
C) Moderate mix
This is a case I might eventually end up in. What I would do would be using a mixture of both (make it my style or whatever) with some consistency – to the point I’d use one variant for all irregular verbs instead of mixing US version on one and UK or another. The problem of this approach is that no matter to which variant I set Word’s spellcheck and Grammarly, they’ll go mad from the cases I go with the other variant.
I’ve opened discussion on that topic on Goodreads and got several responses on that matter. One repeated point – and a very valid one – was consistency. While there’s an option I am leaning towards more, I am still open to feedback and discussion on that matter. I’ll welcome any insight, from native speakers on both sides of the Atlantic ocean as well as second-language speakers.
So, feel free to share your opinion. Would you notice a mixture of US and UK spelling? Would that disrupt your reading experience? If you’re native, either from the US or UK, is reading the other variant noticeable difference for you?
I’m Australian, which leans toward UK English (spelling colour with the ‘u’ etc), but I’ve set my books in the US and plan to submit there, so I write in American English. As a writer I would notice the mix of spellings in a book and think the author didn’t proofread it properly. I agree with the advice you were given that consistency is key when deciding what language to use, but it should be consistent with one or the other, not both. I understand your reasoning for wanting to pick certain spellings from the UK and the US, because that’s your preference as the writer, but you need to also consider the reader and make the reading experience as easy as possible for them.
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Thanks for your opinion. What probably matters as well is: how big the difference is. I guess that in the case of double letters, it would not be a big issue. I’ve discussed some specific cases with people on Goodreads and there was an opinion that in some cases, the lists are even more strict than what people actually use. The two cases of US spelling (which I am leaning towards) that feel strange to me are such borderline cases where people told me that, actually, both versions are used by US English.
What might be trickier is using some phrases or modern terms (such as the football/soccer dilemma) that, fortunately, are of no concern to me as a fantasy writer.
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Yes, writing in English is such a funny thing. There’s so many different ways to spell everything, even if you’re just sticking to American English or UK English, there’s still plenty of choice 😊.
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