English? Depends which English you’re talking about…

I’m in the middle of my first end-to-end edit of Thunder.  So, I suppose the good news is, that I’ve finished the base draft!  The bad news is, I didn’t let my writing get bogged down during the bulk writing and, as a result, there’s quite a lot of tidying up to be done.  I think it will be a few weeks before I’ll feel happy enough to release an initial preview copy to my alpha readers.

This first edit is also where I’m trying to lock down some of the formatting decisions, including choice of language…

Simpleton that I am, I laid out Firebird in British English.  It made sense to me.  I’m British. It’s how I spell and write.  Unfortunately, I hadn’t considered that my book might sell internationally, and I certainly didn’t expect it to do more than three times as well, overseas, as it does at home.

Equally, I laid Firebird out with single quote marks for speech.  It’s not my favourite form of punctuation (note: British English spelling of favorite) but it’s the method used in virtually every print book I’ve ever looked at.  Perhaps this is a British thing too?  Perhaps it’s only British print books which are laid out in this way?  I can’t think why it’s done though?  Maybe the printers are trying to save a tiny amount of ink…?

Anyway, both of the above points have been picked up by one or two readers as being negative attributes for Firebird and, given that I need to prepare my works a little less parochially, I’m changing both facets for the new book.

As it is, I’d already laid out Thunder with traditional sixty-six and ninety-nine punctuation (“Like this,” he says, somewhat nonsensically…  ‛As opposed to, like this…’).  Personally I think this is a more pleasing-to-the-eye layout.

As for the spelling… Well, I’m now having to rely on the Mac’s International English dictionary which is an odd feeling.  It’s tough being told by my computer that I’m no gud at spelling in my own language…!

About anthonybellaleigh

Writing to amuse myself and entertain others. (https://anthonybellaleigh.wordpress.com)

Posted on May 20, 2012, in Books, Firebird, Thunder, Writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Too fun. To me, as long as what you do is consistent, it’s no big deal. But it must make people trip, so why not make them happy? Congrats on the progress you’ve made!


  2. Hi Anthony, good post. I’ve always used single quotation marks, mainly because I’m a lazy bugger, to use double I have to press the shift key and then the doubles. Whereas, I only have to press the single once. I think it is a British convention, and the rest of the world can go and suck their thumbs. Single! Single! Single! Single!
    As for the language, I agonised (or should that be agonized?) about this years ago, and decided to stick with the English wot we speak.
    Cheer Albie.


    • Hi Albie. It’s always a pleasure to hear from you! I think Judith hit the nail on the head with her comment about consistency being the most important thing. Anyway, I’ve swung back to double quotes to give myself more flexibility for differentiating thoughts and quotations (both in and out of speech) and so, despite my own penchant for laziness, my ‘shift key’ is my friend… Double. Double. Double! LOL :D


  3. I’m a little biased here, being American, but I’d never even seen single quote marks until reading Indie books. Didn’t even know it was done, lol. Now I’m beta reading for an Australian writer and having a tough time with that system (different spelling doesn’t bother me, just the marks). For me, the single quote is more difficult to notice and often I can’t be sure when a character is speaking unless I double and triple check the marks. Of course, this makes the reading more slow going and less enjoyable.

    The main problem is a single quote is used for other things than just dialog (such as showing a sign of possession), whereas a double is not. To be fair, that is your system and it’s perfectly fine to use it over there. Just remember us poor Americans might get a bit confused. If you have a large audience that has a different system, it might not hurt to format in a way that they’re comfortable. I suspect all the publishers do this for books depending on where they will be sold. That way we never even realize we are being catered to depending on our locale.


    • How fascinating… I can’t help but wonder what-on-earth possesses the British press to use single quotes? Neither did I know, till now, that it wasn’t an international standard (I’d assumed it must be)… At school, I was taught sixty-six and ninety-nine and (like you, Susan) prefer the flexibility of having single quotes up-my-sleeve for other uses. It’s doubles for me from now on and I’ll probably go back to Firebird at some point and swap them over (NOT an easy task!!)… Cheers for the post!!


  4. Ah, the riff between the US and the Brits! You’d think it had all been settled in those wars we had back in the day!

    And while we’re on the subject of language, perhaps even that of the King’s English, I must confess (as an American) that I love the BBC, British Literature and even your quirky words like “cheeky” and “torch” (for flashlight) as well as the ever so polite, “Mind the gap!”

    But mostly, I’m glad you’re making progress on Thunder. THAT’S the important news!


  5. Bugger! I just altered my novel to ‘ not ” (as I was taught) *because* every novel I looked at used single quote marks. ::sigh:: Well, it goes out tomorrow, not going to change it all again now.


    • Sorry Maya. Scant comfort, but I did exactly the same… Converted it to single quotes and then, just, changed it all back again… Hey ho! Who’d have thought that this would be a British quirk?


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