The Colour of Spell Czech

Dear Miss Snark

Your post about spelling got me thinking. If you are being queried by a writer from Australia or Britain who use the British system of spelling (colour instead of color, realise instead of realize), would you prefer that they utilise the American spelling system? Or is your only priority that the MS is consistent and there are no spelling mistakes, whatever the preferred spelling method?

I also have a lead-on question. If the novel was published in America will the spelling be converted from British to America or stay as is?

I've read enough books with Brit/UK/Aussie spelling and syntax not to be thrown by it. I don't consider it a mistake at all. Just don't spell werds rong for whatever system you are using.

Some books are "Americanized", others are not. Lynn Truss' marvelous Eats, Shoots, and Leaves was not altered at all from the UK version, but the forthcoming "Is It Just Me" will be. It's the publisher's call.


Elektra said...

I had this problem--since I read mainly British stuff, I spell things the British way (it's just how I'm used to seeing it). Only problem is, American spell-check hates it, and will sometimes change it automatically back to the Ameruican version. Which makes for a very mismatched manuscript.

Anonymous said...

My guess would be that it's more important to localise/localize children's/YA books (e.g. HP) so that the developing minds are seeing a consistent set of spelling rules.

I'm a non-American, working for an American company; so I know how I was taught to spell, and I know what the spell-check on my computer forces me to do (although I do change the dictionary for my non-business writing...).

I generally avoid mixing the conventions, but I'm so used to the alternative spellings now to be 'blind' to them when reading a document.

Does anyone find it jarring / distracting to read a book that - per their conventions - is spelt wrong?

Bella Stander said...

"Spelt" still throws me. To me, it's a grain, not the past tense of "spell."

Anonymous said...

elektra, if you're using Word, you can turn autocorrect off. Go to Tools and select autocorrect. You'll get a window which will allow you to turn autocorrect off.

Alternately, you can set the preferred language to UK English by going to the tools menu and setting the language.

Recently, I've gotten used to seeing the UK spelling and have learned to ignore the red squiggly line under such words as labour and realise. However, if it isn't familiar, then I have to check my dictionaries to see if they say it's the British spelling.

I don't find it jarring, but then I'm not a naturally good speller, so if I see something in print that's unfamiliar, I tend to think its right. I'll check in a dictionary first to confirm it.


Anonymous said...

"Alternately, you can set the preferred language to UK English by going to the tools menu and setting the language."


Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say: jewellery!

Elektra said...


Anonymous said...

Read the New Yorker review, if you can find it, of Eats Shoots and Leaves, if you would truly like to see the Platonic ideal of T.Rexual stilletto heel crushing into sand.

Simon Haynes said...

I'm curious about this one too, since I'm a brit living in the land of Aus. My first two books are already in the stores here and a NY agent is about to strive mightily (I hope) to get the series picked up over there.
Since I'm currently very busy working on book three for my local publisher, I'm wondering whether I'd get a load of requests for changes to the originals for the US market, assuming a deal goes down, or whether they'd just hit the text with a spell Czech and print the results.
I've heard tales of not so upelevatoring results, so even though I'm flat chat it'd be nice to be involved in any alterations.
(I can't say who the agent is yet, but they're legit and have a decent client list.)

none said...

Elektra, the solution is to pretend you're Canadian :).

I get thrown by "learned" instead of "learnt" and "leaned" instead of "leant", etc, (it's the would-be editor in me) but mostly I can read comfortably in almost any standard version of English. Dialects sometimes give me pause.

Beth said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...


I try to erase the Britishisms. It's hard to do. It's how I learned to spell. I compromise.

Colour and Labour flow off my fingers. They're natural to me. I keep them. Most everything else comes out American.

What an editor wants to do, should one ever want to publish me, is fine with me. But I will continue to type Colour and Labour. I can't help it. However I don't write Centre or Programme. I've managed to train myself away from those. And I take an elevator not a lift.

I don't worry about it. And, I am confortable reading either spelling convention. Neither is jarring or distracting.

Anonymous said...

Interesting thread!
I am a resident alient (ha - love that term) in the US who was raised with British english. As I prefer to write what I know, my protagonist has the same birth country as I do, so I use a lot of non-US phrases and words that are not detected by the spell checker, even when it is set to US-english - words like queue and lounge.
Although I stress the 'alien' (ha!) nature of my protagonist, my critique partners will always either question or correct my ms.
It makes it hard to maintain my resolve to submit my work. Always at the back of my mind are the questions - Will the agents and editors think I'm a nitwit? Should I conform?
Ah, the issues facing resident aliens. Maybe I should switch my focus to science fiction...

Bernita said...

Add to that, having a North American in Britain and trying to make sure the Brit character speaks of "lifts" and "boots" and "lorries" while your non-resident character talks of "elevators', "trunks," and "trucks."

Anonymous said...

I hear ya about the "spell czech"! I'm from British descent, raised on their language but born a Californian. You can only guess the trouble I posed to my many instructors!

Just change your dictionary to accept only certain words and "ignore" all such others. Be careful, for those words you choose to list should be spelled correctly each and every time!

Great endeavors to ya!

Rick said...

I would be very hesitant to use anything but US spelling even if I were submitting to a British market - I'm familiar enough with some British spellings (such as "=our"), there are surely others that would slip past me.

For the same reason, I think a British writer would be better to stick to British spellings, rather than attempt an Americanization that might turn out inconsistant.

Anonymous said...

I also often use British spelling and verbforms, not to mention vocabulary. Having been raised on British English, I have since adapted partially to American English, but that merely complicates the problem. Still, it isn't much of one. The copy editor makes adjustments as needed, and it hasn't stopped me from getting published.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget Canadians! We use traditional "British" spelling as well.

However, since I knew I wanted to market and sell my book in America, I switched to US spelling.

Anonymous said...

It's not 'British English' or 'the British system'. It's just English.

Anonymous said...

While I don't have an issue with most UK vs. US spelling, one word that continues to throw me is story when it mean floor. Story is the US spelling, but the UK spelling is storey. This one gets even more complicated when its many a banana--stories vs. storeys. ;-)


P.S. I just ran Google's spell check (from my tool bar) and it accepted both versions without having to tell it to accept one or the other.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Anonymous said...
It's not 'British English' or 'the British system'. It's just English.

The British haven't spoken English in years, dear.

Despite my misspent childhood, one Britishism that I think truly revealing is, "Chat to me." Alternatively, it can show up as, "I chatted to them."

American say, "chatted with." That's because Americans engage in conversations with give and take. My Brit cousins are accurate (even though they abuse the preposition)when they say "chat to."

The two expressions reveal a fundamental difference in discourse.

I only posted this off topic comment to upset the twit that says I'm always off topic.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget "chat up." I love that one. People give you odd looks when you use it in Minnesota, though.

Anonymous said...

I'm from a former British colony so I was taught that form of the language, then I taught it at high school for 22 years. I spent 3 years in the US where people stared at me uncomprehendingly when I wrote 'cheque' for 'check'. So I learned to conform. Then I edited a newspaper that used the British form. Now I'm submitting my novels to US agents and editors, so I go through and try to catch the culprits that the spellcheck didn't.

*throws hands in the air*

I fear I'm losing the ability to differentiate.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Anonymous said...
Don't forget "chat up." I love that one. People give you odd looks when you use it in Minnesota, though.

Oh. I thought Minnesotans (Minnesotainians?) gave everyone odd looks. I thought it was their national past-time. And I thought it had to do with all that scandinavian blood.

[If I keep typing this, I'm going to get smacked by a near relative. Born in Hallock, she was. Tisk. Speaks with a Norwegian accent too, even though Norway is generations away. Don't hit me!]