Spelling and Punctuation in a Global World

Wouldn’t it be lovely if every English speaking country had the same spelling, punctuation and grammar? If regional or local differences didn’t matter. But they do, so what as a writer should you do?

My first piece of advice is consistency. Pick and stick because consistency is going to annoy fewer readers than switching regularly. But how to do select?

My suggestion is to use your native version of English as the standard, but be able to use other versions if you have characters of other nationalities. As an Australian reader, it annoys me to read a book set in Australia, with Australian characters but the book is written using American spelling and word choice. Admittedly, that is just me, but many other readers I’ve spoken with feel the same way. I know the American market is significantly larger and you want to break into the larger market but if you are using Australian characters, locations and scenarios, stick with Australian spelling.

The reverse is essential as well. If your story is set in America, England, Canada or other English speaking country, ensure you follow the local conventions for spelling, punctuation and grammar. If you’re not sure, it is easy enough to find the established rules.

Working with a variety of American authors recently horde/hoard has been an interesting experience for me. In Australia, each has specific meanings. But the American authors I’ve been working with have been using either word interchangeably.

Horde/hoard – horde = marauding band, gang or group of People/savages (or teenage boys looking for a snack) while hoard means to collect, store and hide objects (possibly the snacks the teenagers are looking for).

After discussions with the authors, most have elected to adapt to the variation above (because of the different meanings) but three of the authors decided to stick with hoard as meaning a group or gang of people in addition to a stockpile of belongings. As an editor, I always leave the final decision to the author after arguing my point but this example is a perfect reason why I believe the publishing would benefit from a Global version of English. After all, there isn’t much difference between:

The rampaging hoard found the hoard of biscuits and the rampaging horde found the hoard of biscuits,

But to me as a reader, I would automatically did not finish (DNF) a book which used the first example.

Can you suggest other examples? Post below if you like.

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