Americanisation or Americanization

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.

7 Replies to “Americanisation or Americanization”

  1. The most intriguing article I’ve read all week. And I’ve read a lot. Interesting to learn there is more than one version of Monopoly. As for ‘as red as a beetroot’… sorry, can’t help you. We just get ‘fried’ here. 🙂

    1. Cheers Ted. Our depleted ozone downunder makes us fry too. I was in Thailand a few years ago for about two weeks. I never wore sunscreen yet came back with a healthy tan that lasted for months.

      Last time I was on a beach here, I splashed on 40+ sunscreen several times, stayed in the shade, but got mild sunstroke.

  2. As an American, I love reading books with British and Australian spelling and idioms. They stretch the reader and add authenticity. They flavor a story perfectly. Or is that flavour?

    I have read some British books where an explanation of these conversations is included. Something like that could forestall erroneous error finding. 😛

  3. As an editor and armchair linguist, I find things like this fascinating. I confess to still being confused about things like “maths” instead of “math” and whether to use “grey” or “gray” for the color…colour(?).

    I think your editor made the right call in allowing you to keep your writing true to your grammar and spelling style.

    It’s good for us Yanks to broaden our horizons and reacquaint ourselves with fun new/old/other English dialects.

    I’ve learnt something new today, spellcheck be damned!

    1. I remember an American friend ages ago loved the phrase ‘No worries’. Now I hear it in US films and TV and another online American friend uses it all the time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: