International Spelling

Should you be using American English or British English in your writing?

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An issue that you may not realise that comes up in your writing career is the choice between which version of English you use.

One of the more prevalent pieces of advice I see regarding this is to write for the target audience. If you think that the book will sell well in America, then you might want to use American English; if your target audience is in the UK, use (British) English. For any of the multitude of other countries throughout the world who use one of these two main variations of the English Language, select accordingly. However, it is not an easy thing—especially if you are a newer writer—to be able to anticipate where your book will likely be marketed, and what happens if it sells well in both the UK and the USA?

For the most part, it’s a good idea to write in the tongue of where your book is set. If you’re writing a book set in America with American characters, you’ll want to use American English; if it’s set in the UK with British characters then you’ll use British English.

It’s not always that straight forward, though. What if your book doesn’t have a defined setting? What if you’re setting your book in a country that doesn’t speak, at least predominately, English, but that’s the language you’re writing in? Then the answer is to pick the best option.

The best is either going to be the one that is the most authentic to what you are trying to do, or what you are going to be the most proficient in. Don’t change to the other type of English just because you think it will sell well. At the end of the day, you’re probably going to do a worse job than writing in the language you’re more comfortable in. That won’t always be the case, of course, but you’re going to be better off writing in what you are most comfortable in if there aren’t any book related reasons to make the choice.

As with the vast majority of writing, you need to be one hundred percent consistent. Don’t start talking about your character’s armor while they journey to the centre of the Earth. Especially don’t do it just because you like the spelling of one word in the different version.

David Chitty was born and raised in Thanet in the 90s. He devotes most of his energies to writing fantasy fiction novels.

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