May 15th, 2006

Loz Cola

This is a wordy rappinghood...

This one is for the writers, I know you're lurking behind those rocks, and as brilliant a disguise as your leafy headgear might be, I request participation.

I am enquiring about language usage in a story. I was born in England. I came here to Australia at age 10. I have, in my short life of 22 years, watched an inordinate amount of American and Canadian television. The way I phrase things can be slightly peculiar. My range of colloquialisms is long and diverse. My style of writing is erratic.

One thing I do is write with the spelling I was taught. Even if it's an American character speaking, I'll write 'colour' with a u, I'll write 'realise' with an s. On the other hand, if it is an American character speaking, I'll have them say 'alternate dimension' instead of 'alternative dimension', I will, on very rare occasions, use 'gotten', I'll write it as 'elevator' instead of 'lift'. I'll attempt to phrase things the way I think (or research) a character from that region might speak.

I was wondering if this is a bone of contention amongst writers. As a Britonozzie writing about American characters, should I adapt my spelling as well as my phrasing? How about the other way? Pretending I were American and writing about English characters, should I write 'colour' with a u, and 'realise' with an s against my natural spelling instinct?

Let's say you had two characters in your story. Ray Vecchio and Benton Fraser from due South, perhaps. One is American, the other Canadian and Canadian standard also likes infiltrating words with magical us. If you were writing dialogue for these two, and they both said colour, or honour, or labour, would you change the spelling accordingly for each speaker? That seems extraordinarily inconsistent and confusing. You could also see this in another light, one which depends upon individual circumstances. If I were writing a first person in the perspective of Ray Kowalski, would there be more reason for me to write with a z not an s?

I would like to argue that as long as you were consistent, you could spell in whichever standard you preferred. I can't say I've ever been annoyed by the myriads of colors or realizes in Harry Potter fan fiction, for instance (although other Americanisms have eaten my soul.)

I'm curious as to how other writers view this.