British verses American English, and editing

by JoAnne Kenrick
A Brit writing in America. It's not as easy as one would think.
I love the editing process. I love how much editors are willing to share with authors...if those authors are willing to listen that is. I've learned so much from the experiences I've had so far, and see my work progressing each and every time I finish a round.

Do I swear at the computer during these said edits? Yeah. But it's not for the reasons you're probably thinking it is; I love it when an editor comments on a major mistake in a sarcastic manner. It makes me laugh out loud not cringe or cry because my feelings have been hurt. Sure, it can be a grueling process if you don't allow your sense of humor to be present. So I take it all with a pinch of salt and try to remember that the editor is not having a go at me. She/he is only trying to help make my story shine. In my books, if you can do that, and ask questions along the way, you will get the most out of your editing experience.

Back to why I swear at the computer during this process. Like I said, I can handle any smart comment an editor might throw at me. But the vain of my editing experiences are the translation problems. Yeah, who knew American English was so very different from British English. It's not just the spelling.

This became apparent to me during the multiple rounds of edits with When A Mullo Loves A Woman, my first published work of fiction. Pearl, the main female lead, took money out of her purse within the story. Her purse was in her bag. What's that? You're confused. Yeah, imagine how confused I was upon being told that Americans call a purse a wallet (male purse in the UK and Oz) and a bag is referred to as a purse. But the book is told from a Brit point of view, I thought. And thus began my first modifications that were necessary to appeal/be understood by my targeted audience. I accepted this and moved on to the next comment in track changes. A twenty pound note. But Americans call them bills, I was told. Okay. So now the character hands over a twenty instead. See what I did there? There was a lot of those sorts of changes. And where I couldn't change it to make sense for both Brits and Americans, I tried to make sure the words could be understood due to context. I'm very accommodating, and very OCD about doing the best I can at anything I put my mind to. So I'll bend over backwards to make sure the editor, and I, are on the same page so we can get it right...together.
Since that first book, I've learned a lot about American English, and continue to learn with each round of edits I do. Soon, I'll be fluent in American English, and my editors will be fluent in British English. Hey, perhaps I missed my calling? I could get a job as an American to British editor. Hehe. Nah, I'll stick to making stuff up because I find it more fun!

Talking of British English...

There's major slang going on in Sweet Irish Kiss. And due to context (reckon I'm getting good at that), a lot of the Brit slang was able to stay :) It's set in an Irish Pub in Soho, London, and I've got Irish banter throwing out all over the place. I think that's what is so fun about this story. Finally, my Brit heritage has come in handy, and is less of an issue. Or at least, I like to think so. I hope my editors agree. And yes, there are more Irish antics in the works. My editor from Decadent would have something not very pretty to say to me if there wasn't. hehe

Okay, you twisted my arm...

Here's an exclusive, never before seen in public, 'bar scene' snippet taken from Chapter One of Sweet Irish Kiss due for release September 30th from Decadent Publishing.

“Ya game is fine, but ya booze-eyes are a problem. Not like ya ta drink this much. I reckon ya banjo’d, so ya are.” Devlin’s thick Irish accent coated each word; a childhood bud and Shaun’s only full-time bartender, he’d come over from Northern Ireland weeks earlier.

Shaun staggered toward his friend behind the bar, tail between his legs. Devlin reached over and snatched the remaining dart from him. He frowned. “No more darts for ya tonight. Ya need ta sober up, so ya do. Coffee? Aye, it’s time for a coffee. San, bring this lad a strong’n.” Sandra, a part timer and born ’n bred Londoner, scurried to the pot and set about getting her boss a cup of the good stuff.

“Gawdon Bennet! Donkey Amateur Dart night. I curse internet shopping and that darn dart board Shaun found doing it.” Sandra clanked the teaspoon in her boss’s cup and went about her vent session with vengeance. “Lawd above! Sunday nights were nice before that bunch took residence. Should be home with my grandkids telling them tales, not here serving this impatient lot, innit.” She poured the full-fat milk and presented the coffee to Shaun. “There, don’t say I don’t do nothing for you.” He winked at her. “Don’t you go flashing your gorgeous greens at me, either. It’s so not gonna fly, mister!” Sandra wiped down the bar and went to serve a punter.

“Dev, I’ve only had two pints. What the hell is wrong with me?” He perched on a barstool and smiled at his friend. He’d lived in London since a child, so his Irish slang wasn’t as pronounced as Devlin’s.

“Pack that in for starters. Ya need ta save it for ya lady friend tomorrow.” Shaun laughed and ushered him to the customer side of the bar by patting the empty barstool to his right.

“San, pour up a pint of Beamish for me mate here.” He frowned upon seeing his friend’s mocking expression. “’I don’t mind admitting I’m nervous about tomorrow night.”

Pssst. If you love Aussie accents, and the 80s, you might want to check out my Siren-Bookstrand release, Rock You Like A Hurricane. It's out 21st September!
Pre-order it now for a fantastic discount:



  1. I have the same attitude about smiling when I see a correction. I'm from Ireland and writing for an American market. Luckily I have a huge number of American friends and family so I'm used to a lot of the terms but I still get comments like,"I don't know what this is". lol. I think it goes both ways, to be fair. I see Americans writing Irish characters or with Irish settings and occasionally I cringe at how far off they can be.

  2. I do the same thing. Last night I actually laughed out loud at my stupidity. Also I love seeing another persons pov. It makes my story feel fresher. I appreciate the help and look at an editor as a helper not a critic.

  3. I write for an American publisher but my stories are about British people and are set in Britain, so I believe they should use British words and phrases. We Brits are expected to know what elevators, sidewalks and faucets are, so why can't Americans accept our lifts, pavements and taps?
    My editor insisted on making newsagent into two words, even though I said it was always one word here. Grrr!

  4. How about being an American, living and going to Uni in England, and then moving back to America and writing. I had one editor ask if my spell check was set for English Enlish or American English.

    The one word that I am always caught out on is grey vs gray. Does it really matter which? I'm American and use grey - I can't be the only person who doesn't require a dictionary in the US to know what the definition is and that isn't mispelled!

  5. I can't imagine that an American Editor would have a problem with Note and Bag. What a harpie!

  6. Seems like readers will always find something to pick at. I see it a lot with settings. Instead of simply enjoying an author using their home town for a story, people will whine that the street name isn't correct, etc.

    Focus on the things that count! A good story!

    I love reading British English or Irish English or whatever and figure it all broadens my horizon and generally, I can figure out the unfamiliar.

  7. A great excerpt! Can't wait for it to release. :)
    Being from Canada, I have some of the same problems, but I don't think quite as many. It's definitely a learning experience.

  8. @Carol
    Do you find yourself completely puzzled as to why they can't figure out what said word means? Sometimes it can lead to a major vent session. My poor husband gets to hear it all. And the kids, too. In fact, they are my first port of call when I wonder if a certain word or phrase is known in America. They are my walking, talking interpreters hehe

    It's to our benefit that we have such a positive attitude toward editors, me thinks :)

    @Paula! LOL I hear that. It's a fine line we walk, getting that balance right. Keeping it British yet understood by ALL/most Americans :) And if it's a British word, keep that spelling, I say. Newsagent is one word. One word I say! hehe

  9. @ Tilly
    No, reckon you're not the only American who knows what us crazy Brits are going on about. But not all do. And the same can be said for me not always knowing what an American is going on about. My Bad? i can't stand that saying. It's like you're saying you made a mistake and you're not going to apologize for it. Yet it's taken as apology. hehe fun stuff.

  10. @Maureen oh how true that is, but these things are deemed important for a good I hear :)

  11. @Jessica -- are there a lot of differences? Or is mainly a spelling thing?

  12. I'm a Canadian who grew up with an English mum and a Polish dad who learned to speak English in post-war my vocab is chock-a-block full of Britishisms...half the time I don't even realize I've used one until the person I'm talking to looks confused. Like the first time I referred to an umbrella as a brolly with a friend of mine at work in the 90s. It never occurred to me that she wouldn't understand that word.

    I love reading books set in the UK that use the language as it is there.

  13. @ Tess :) Brolly! I love that word. That reminds me of when I walked to the local pharmacy when we first moved to the States. I asked the cashier if she could direct me to the plasters. LMAO It took five minutes before she understood what I meant, and that's with me saying band aid, too! It was the accent, apparently she couldn't get past it hehe Sometimes it's fun. Other times...not so much. Esp when all you want is a plaster for the huge blister throbbing on your foot!

  14. You can imagine the looks I got when traveling in London in 97 and said the word 'Fanny Pack'.

    Ok. Common usage here. What's with the 'you just licked an elephant's cage and want to kiss ME with that mouth?!' look?

    Come to find out (after a few horrified looks) 'fanny' in England is a vulgar word for 'vagina'. Like the C-word here in US. There, it was 'bum bag'.


    Personally, I love Britishisms and we let some in (she let some in, right Jo? *squinting at Ciar*). Boot and lift are good, but those confusing 'bag' and 'plaster' things where we have obvious differences in meanings....hard!

    Has anyone else noticed that we all speak in such a rash of colloquialisms it's amazing anyone can understand us?!

  15. Jo, that you are an amazing author shows in the fact that you are willing to put in all the hard work involved in getting your books just right. I thank you for your humor and dedication.

  16. In Sweet Irish Kiss Jo's editor let the slang rule. She's such an understanding person lol. Seriously, it made the book incredibly fun and we just made sure the audience would be able to get it from context. I had a blast working on it!

  17. Joanne - fun post - we Canadians have the same problem but we kind of straddle both Queen's and American English so it can be frustrating too. And that's great that you have a positive attitude about the editing process - although i always try to be respectful when editing. i don't like rudeness. there is no need for that.


  18. @ Decadent - Heather or Lisa? Not sure But fanny packs? I'm such a kid. Whenever I hear someone say that I roll around and laugh my head off. I don't know why. Perhaps because I'm aware that they have no idea what they just said? Or perhaps it's because I'm still a silly school girl at heart. But fanny pack? Really? A whole array of images run through my mind with that one. What on earth is a fanny pack? hehe Bum bag isn't a great name for a product, either. But at least everyone knows what bum means! LOL fanny...hehe

    (((Kathy))) awww, shucks xx I'm blushing now! Thank you xx

    @Kate yeah, there wasn't many words that garnered comments like 'what the heck does that means?' That surprised me. I think Mullo was a huge learning curve for me. Plus, I've learned to sound a lot of stuff out to my kids, too, and on Facebook. hehe I'm so psyched about how awesome Sweet Irish Kiss turned out. I read it through on the final line edits and was like, "I wrote this? No way!" hehe

    @Joanna so true, there is no need for rude comments from an editor. Blunt, yes. Mean spirited? Definitely not. Thankfully, I've been blessed with all the editors I've worked with so far. I like the sarcasm and bluntness. You don't need to tip-toe around me and 'suggest' it would be better 'if'. Nah, hit me with the truth; this isn't good so change it. I can deal!

  19. sorry I"m late to this party Joann--had beer stuff and my own edits to deal with yesterday. The only thing that sorta bugs me about brogue or colloquialism or whatever is when the character THINKS in it....and I truly miss my British was of the fun parts of living there (Pants? No...Trousers!)
    cheers (which of course in England means :"Thanks" Not "bottoms up")

  20. Your dedication shows in your work, JoAnne! I can see where it could present a challenge during edits. Thanks for the peek at Sweet Irish Kiss. It sounds great and love the cover!

  21. @liz -- LMAO pants or trousers hehe knickers or panties. *shudder* panties just sounds dirty to me. I cringe every time I use that word in a book. LOL I think it's because it reminds of something a dirty old man would say. LOL But if panties is what readers want, that is what they'll get hehe NOT mine, though. eek

    And cheers for commenting xxx Oh, and cheers also means bottoms up :) Us Brits, we like to confuse matters.

    @Kathleen xx aww what a lovely thing to say, and I'm so happy you enjoyed the snippet xxx

  22. student loans people by attraction also gives you
    a complete financial outlook on one display. The ability to get it to
    rank organically in the search results page. Learning how to write pulling
    ad copy and how to reach your target audience, consumers
    will also be a service like the tourism industry.
    The key is to find the right offer you have is unique and promote your products beautifully.

    My blog ... Student Loans for People with Bad Credit


Post a Comment

We would love to hear from you but hope you are a real person and not a spammer. :)

Popular Posts