Writing with a British accent- miscommunication or writing style? #am writing

Writing with an English accent-miscommunication or writer’s style?

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After reading an interesting post by fellow blogger, ronovanwrites, I am presented with an interesting dilemma. Should I adapt my writing style  in order to communicate better with my readers who are more familiar with US English or retain my British accent. As ronovanwrites points out, many words in UK English have very different meanings in the US. We discussed the fact that chips are called French Fries in the States and that crisps are called chips. Also the difference between a biscuit and a cookie. I wonder how much miscommunication is going on.

I am reminded of the occasion ,when arriving at a hotel in The Caribbean, with a party of English travellers. At reception we were informed that, while the dress code for dinner was informal, the men would be required to wear pants. Much hilarity ensued until the male guests were reassured that they only needed to wear long trousers and that nobody would check to see if they were going commando. We wear pants and knickers and vests under our clothes.

While on the same trip I was intrigued when I heard an American mother ask her son whether he had his fanny-bag, HIS WHAT?! I was very relieved when I observed that a fanny-bag was a small pouch attached to a belt which rested on his bum, what we would call a bum-bag! Here in the UK only females have fannies and they are situated at the front, not at the rear. I’m used to the idea that in the US cars have hoods and trunks while here they have boots and bonnets and no one over here would dream of putting jelly in a sandwich, we prefer jam. Not many British men would admit to wearing suspenders, but would keep their trousers up with braces, in Britain suspenders go with stocking tops (naughty!). When it rains here (and it rains a lot!) I put on a mac and wellies instead of a raincoat and galoshes ( now that’s a lovely word).

So to return to my original dilemma, should I adapt my writing to prevent misunderstandings with my international audience or should I retain my British accent as part of my writing style? and don’t even get me started on spelling!

With thanks to ronovanwrites@wordpress.com for the inspiration for this post.

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34 thoughts on “Writing with a British accent- miscommunication or writing style? #am writing

  1. Hi there! My short answer is no. I think our natural writing voices are what distinguish us and keep us unique. Of course, if you are specifically writing a novel for say the US market or using US characters you might need to re-think this slightly but really that is what an editor is there to advise on. As a Scottish blogger/writer, I asked the same question recently and the resounding response was don’t change – we follow you because we like your Scottish style. Really enjoyed reading this post – gave me a giggle!

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  2. I’d certainly stick to writing in the British way. After all, that is what will attract many Americans to your blog, as I’ve always heard that Americans love a British accent. I think it’s really important to be you when you write and not try to be somebody else. That way your readers and followers will get to know you much better and will not be surprised by anything out of the ordinary.
    Be you and stick to being you, because that is what almost all of us love the most.
    I hope that helps a little?

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  3. I agree with all the comments. Be you! And I think that a glossary would be too school ma’am-ish. Diversity is what makes life interesting. Let people ask if they don’t understand, or provide a very brief explanation if miscommunication is likely and what you’re communicating is important. Love your blog!

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    1. Thanks for the advice, Margie, I was joking about the glossary, my school-ma’am days are over.:-) I love reading about how people live in different parts of the world, and agree about variety being the spice of life.

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  4. Never adapt! Many years ago, in hospital in Texas, pain-filled days were often relieved by mirth at mutual misunderstandings! Ask for a tissue? blank response; suggest it was time for my tea (Australian for the evening meal ) and I ended up with iced tea… and on and on. But I still want to know what s’mores are.

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  5. I agree. Don’t change it. It will come off as phony. Who you are is all you have to distinguish yourself from the rest of the pack. While pack mentality works great in the corporate world, it fails miserably when it comes to art. Some people may be turned off by your writing style, but then they aren’t your target audience.

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  6. I’d agree with all the above with one caveat. If you know a phrase will completely give the wrong idea to another English-speaking culture, you might think of modifying it in some way. That’s a good idea for any who use idioms (or as they say in Mexico, modismos) in our writing (I always liked that word, “modismo”).

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  7. This is a very interesting post — and a question that plagues many bloggers, me including! It’s a bit more complicated for me in that English is my second language and though I was taught its British variant, I pick words from American TV that are US English. Sometimes I got it mixed up 😦 I’m very pleased to see that the overwhelming response to your post is that you should keep British. That’s my opinion too, and that’s also the policy of my own blog.

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  8. My friend Pauline, just off the boat from England, asked the American to knock her up at 7am. Did he laugh! did she turn red when she was informed what she’d just said. There may indeed be times when you should avoid some terms because of confusion, or put in brackets the equivalent in brackets beside.

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      1. You’re welcome, Marilyn! Thanks for the info on online computer courses. 😊

        And definitely keep your British accent. I still write colour as I cannot give up the ‘u’ that I was taught in school. If I tried to write US English I would get it wrong much of the time anyway. Better to stick to Australian English which I know. Maybe I should throw in some Aussie slang words just for fun! 😊

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  9. As it’s already been said, you’re doing great being yourself. Bear in mind that English changes even within Britain. So, what would be the point? I also try to keep my English as British as possible and I’m Catalan…

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  10. This is an interesting question to ponder. Should you change your writing voice for the sake of your readers? I’m on the fence about this. On one hand, if you know that a large portion of your reader base is American, then perhaps you should alter your word choice slightly to accommodate – perhaps ‘underwear’ instead of ‘pants,’ for example (the word ‘underwear’ is used on both sides of the pond, isn’t it?). On the other hand, I don’t believe in pandering (if someone has a problem with ‘color’ vs ‘colour,’ or vice versa, I feel it is THEIR problem, not mine) and additionally your readers may be attracted to your blog BECAUSE of your British way of writing.

    In short, my thought is that you have readers because they like your way of writing. While it is good to be aware that slight word adjustments might be needed to keep miscommunication at bay, as long as your grammar/punctuation/etc are all in order, I say keep doing what you are doing!

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  11. I write ‘English’ because that is how I was brought up – when writing I am aware that there can be misunderstandings – so I try to say the same thing twice – once in English and then again to qualify

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  12. lol! As an private English teacher working abroad I had always to teach (and explain) US and UK terms (and spelling) so I say let’s educate the Americans also.
    We had lots of comical language laughs over the years (most foreign teachers being of the US version). My favourite was when my then 10 year old son asked his teacher for a “rubber” (eraser for US readers) it caused quite a stir!

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