It all began when my editor gave me my notes for my novel. One main complaint was the spelling mistakes. I was surprised. I was certain I had ironed out any errors, but there were her notes in black and white.
All over my latest draft were bizarre corrections. Realise became realize. Single L’s were replaced with double L’s. Strange full stops appeared at the end of Mr. Words like learnt and leant were questioned.
Even the use of commas before the word ‘and’ were added for some weird reason. Spelling mistakes? Me? New red squiggles appeared in my Word Document thanks to her ‘corrections’.
Once I directed her to various websites on the differences between American English and my use of UK/Canadian/Australian English, a whole world (for both of us) began to unravel. Together we questioned, read and reviewed our own understanding in bi-lingual fashion.
But this raised the question on which brand of English my novel should be printed in. My publisher made the wise decision to use my own version of the language.
Even so, writing for an American publisher and potentially a large US audience made me think twice before my fingers hit the keys. My use of the word ‘arse’ became ‘ass’ unless in dialogue from one of my non-American characters. I kept ‘theatre’ only once in the name of a London theatrical group.
In Australia we use the word ‘pissed’ for drunk, not for angry. (We use ‘pissed off’ for angry) I had to use this phrase for one of my Aussie characters and warned my editor of its true meaning. She wrote back letting me know she was ‘duly warned’.
Another expression used Downunder is ‘As red as a beetroot’. But a beetroot is known as a beet in the US, so I asked my editor if there was a similar expression. I got the impression that there is no related phrase as we mostly use it to describe a sunburnt person.
Then my imagination went wild and I decided to use a Monopoly Board in an important section of the novel. I wrote to my editor beforehand, just because I liked the context I was using it in. She loved it and came up with ways to use the street names in context. The problem was, they were street names I’d never heard of.
It seems Americans use a different board. In Australia we use the British version. This was a dilemma. It was the Australian characters who were referencing it, but Americans would have been as confused as I was when my editor shared her ideas. I bit the bullet. I used the US version.
My final draft was submitted, but at the eleventh hour I wrote to my publisher and proposed that I should change my manuscript to US spelling and grammar. I didn’t want to read endless reviews complaining about the lack of proof reading.
It’s still strange for me to pick up the novel and see single L’s and missing U’s (as in colour, humour), but I feel I made the right choice.
The only drawback is that now my laptop randomly picks either one version of English or the other when it opens a new document. I could place bets on whether it feels Australian or American on any given day.