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Which Version of English Will You Use?

Many authors ask me whether to write in Australian, British or American English.

I recommend writing in the language where the majority of your readers currently are. If you are an Australian author and your current readers and clients are mostly in Australia, I would recommend writing in Australian English. If you break into the American market in a big way you could reprint in American English at a later date. This would be better than alienating your current audience while you are establishing yourself.

Australian and British readers much prefer their own English and can be turned off by American English in a book. As a generalism, American readers tend not to be as touchy about having their own version, so keep your readers happy!

Remember that language covers more than spelling. American, Australian and British English differ in punctuation, grammar and word choice, so your choice will permeate through your writing. For this reason, it’s best to make your choice early in the writing process.

Australian and British English are very close in punctuation, spelling and grammar, with American English being markedly different in these areas. The sayings and word choices vary widely across the world. There are the classic no-no’s, like the word ‘thong’, which is a shoe in Australia and underwear in America. In Australia you can live in a flat however in America that would be very restrictive. They live in apartments. However, there are more subtle differences, like the word ‘sea’, which is rarely used in America, as they don’t have many seas there so they usually use ‘ocean’.

If what you are writing involves concepts, currencies or colloquialisms from one part of the world, the choice of which language to use has already been made for you. Your job then is to keep it consistent throughout the book.

Tip: Make sure your document’s language is set to the correct dictionary (USA/AU/UK) so the automatic spell checker is on your side.

When it comes time for editing, ensure that your editor is proficient in editing your chosen language. It is a fine art to edit in a language that is not your native tongue. As you can see there is so much more involved than just spelling. Anyone who is not a native speaker is unlikely to pick up the subtle style differences in a language that is not their own.

When you’ve made a choice like which language to use, it’s good to record it in the Style Guide of your book. Your Style Guide is the document where you record all the personal choices you’ve made on how you’d like your book to be handled by editors, proofreaders, etc. It’s all the parts of the language that aren’t rules but are preferences. Perhaps there are certain words you like to capitalise but don’t strictly need to be, or you like times to be shown as 2pm not 14.00, things like that. There are so many little quirks each writer has, and your team need a guide on what they are so they don’t undo your hard work and everyone can apply your preferences consistently. We have an inhouse Style Guide we use for our preferred conventions, which you might find really handy. You can grab a free copy at https://authorsupportservices.com/free-resources/

Alex Fullerton is an author’s consultant and self-publishing specialist at Author Support Services, based on a pineapple farm in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, Australia. She has spent the last sixteen years working with business people to create concise, compelling, and comprehensive books that complement their businesses and increase their professional standing. Alex is supported by a dedicated team who provide a full self-publishing service, from planning to printing and promotion.

www.authorsupportservices.com

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