Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Some Thoughts on Editing UK and American Spellings

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Folks, after reading Stephanie Osborn’s latest guest blog about writing both British and American spellings — not to mention euphemisms and sayings — I started to think.

You see, I’ve edited for a number of non-Americans. Whether these have been Canadians, New Zealanders, Australians, or folks from the United Kingdom, I’ve given them the same advice I give anyone else.

So what changes when I edit for someone who isn’t from the United States? Mostly, it’s the spelling . . . but as Stephanie cogently pointed out, some of the sayings are dissimilar also.

And yes, that can be complicated, especially if I’ve never come across the euphemism before despite all of my reading and other experience.

So what do you do then, as an editor?

My job, as an editor, is to help the client, regardless of where he or she comes from. So if I don’t understand what the client is saying, I have to ask him — and I am not shy about doing so, either.

(Why I should be is possibly fodder for another blog entirely. But as always, I digress.)

Sure, it looks odd for me as an American who grew up with American spelling to see behavior spelled behaviour — or color as colour, either — though some UK-derived spellings aren’t so odd or outré.

Consider, please, that most people don’t even bat an eye when the word “theatre” is spelled with -re rather than the usual American spelling, theater. And most American writers use dialogue with the -ue rather than the technically preferred and American spelling of dialog, which drops the -ue entirely, right along with the word prologue.

Also, it’s not unknown to see an American spell the word marvellous with two l’s — even though that’s technically the British spelling — rather than marvelous with only one l.

Anyway, spelling differences aside, the advice an editor gives doesn’t tend to change very much. But you do have to make a note of it when you’re working with someone who isn’t from the United States and is writing for a world market as opposed to the U.S. market.

That aside, as a reader and reviewer, I find it refreshing to see Stephanie Osborn using British spelling in Sherlock Holmes’ point of view, while her American hyperspatial physicist, Skye Chadwick-Holmes, the wife of Sherlock, quite rightly uses the American spelling she grew up with.

Because I do think it adds to the narrative to do it that way — and, perhaps ironically, points out that the differences between men and women are not always merely cosmetic.

——–

Quick reviewing update: I hope to have a review of LINCOLN’S BOYS up over at Shiny Book Review (SBR) by tomorrow evening. Stephanie Osborn’s fourth book in her Displaced Detective series, ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS, is tentatively scheduled for this Saturday, as what could be a better time to discuss the actual wedding of Sherlock and Skye than Romance Saturday at SBR?

And if you live in Racine and want to see a good symphonic band concert, I urge you to come out to Case High School on Thursday night to see the Racine Concert Band. I’m playing the alto saxophone in this concert, so if you know me, be sure to give me a discreet wave. (I’d say “give me a yell,” but that would be quite rude under the circumstances.)

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Written by Barb Caffrey

May 14, 2014 at 5:37 pm

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