Choosing Between U.S. and U.K. English

I struggled for awhile, debating between U.S. and U.K. English. As a Canadian, I use a bit of both. I keep the u in words like colour, but I say “elevator”, not “lift”.  These are the three things I took into consideration when deciding which English to use for Outliers (to be published this summer).

#1: Target Audience

The first thing I did was research more about my target audience. Many authors choose which version of English to use based on the book’s location (e.g.: using American if the book takes place in New York). My novel doesn’t take place in any real-life country, taking place a couple hundreds years into a dystopian future, so I didn’t have that to take into account. I focused solely on the general market for self-published books. If your book does have a real-life location, you should take the time to consider how the version of English relates to your story. A character that grew up, and is still, in London, probably wouldn’t use U.S. English.

While the audience for online sales will be largely American, the majority of profits will likely be made from my book launch and signings, which will be in Canada. I also have a plan to get my book in some bookstores and libraries, which will also most likely be exclusive to Canada. This was a  factor against using the U.K. English, as a lot of the vocabulary would be unfamiliar to a North American audience. It didn’t make U.S. English a no-brainer, either. Majority of my profits will likely be made in Canada, but U.S. English has different spelling than Canadians use.

#2: Other Authors

I looked into which version of English other authors, especially Canadians, were choosing for their books. I was surprised to find that a lot of authors had chosen Canadian English, even without a Canadian location. I hadn’t realized this was an option, but I discovered there is even an function in Word for it. The other authors said that using it wasn’t much of a deterrent for American readers, because the difference between American and Canadian English was so small. Most of them hadn’t received any complaints for it. I started to take Canadian English into consideration, too.

#3: Personal Feelings

The idea of publishing in either U.S. or U.K. English had always felt odd to me. I am proud to be Canadian, and I don’t want to change my version of English for the sake of what seems to be a very slim difference in sales. I ultimately decided to use Canadian English. It’s only a small difference for my American readers, but I feel it will be significant for my Canadian readers. If you’re Canadian, you know how exciting it is just to find Canada mentioned in a book 😉 .

Whether you choose U.S., U.K., Canadian, Australian, or any other version of English, be sure to take it under a lot of consideration. Understand your target audience, do some research, and decide what feels right for your book. What version may work for one of your books, may not work for another.

What version of English (or another language) are you publishing in? How did you come to that decision?

I post new advice on Saturdays, so please click “follow”  to keep learning more!  What would you like me to blog about next? Do you have any questions about writing? Please be sure to let me know in the comments, or contact me via social media! 🙂

With all of this in mind, go out and write your masterpiece!

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5 thoughts on “Choosing Between U.S. and U.K. English

Add yours

  1. Great post! As a person who has English as my second language, I’m always confused with this as well. Not specifically in publishing my novel or anything, but also in normal occasions, like in book reviews or even when writing in my own blog.

    Liked by 1 person

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