Ebooks, Ebook Readers, Digital Books and Digital Content Publishing

Ebooks, Ebook Readers, Digital Books and Digital Content Publishing

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Books with UK spelling and settings: should they be translated into American English or labeled with "UK spelling, et. al"

Student at Polytechnic University of the Philippines

I'm just curious. I have a friend who has self-published a ya fantasy book and since she's living in the UK, her spelling and settings automatically reflect the country (though she came from California but married and settled in UK). Problem is, there are people reporting or complaining about errors in spelling (i.e. offence instead of the American offense) when it was clear that the story happens in UK, and even the traditions included in the book speak for themselves. Should she put something that states that the book has UK spelling and such or translate it into US/International English? Personally, I don't wanna have the book translated because it already is a character in itself, given the charm and fairytale-like atmosphere of England, but I wanna hear your opinion.

P.s. I'm an Asian and have never been to US/UK (which hopefully, I get to visit sometime soon) but am a voracious reader and would like to think that I know a bit about every culture or two through reading.

  • Comment (79)
  • September 15, 2013
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  • Gordon W.


    Gordon W.

    Publisher, editor, communicator

    The perils of international publishing! "Translating" a book that is already published from UK to US English is actually a lot more work than just running a US spell check. There are conventions of punctuation and grammar that can differ between US and UK as well. Unless you're prepared to spend a lot on editing, the chances are good that there would still be errors and people might still raise issues.

    The simplest solution would be to add a brief "editor's note" about the English being used at the front of the book.

  • Joy S.


    Joy S.

    Author of Strike Three, Detour Trail, and other works of fiction and non-fiction

    No. Not necessary. I read English and American books. You may even learn a lot about the language differences. It's certainly not worth the effort, and you'll miss words that you never think about.

  • Louise

    Louise B.

    Student at Polytechnic University of the Philippines

    Thanks to you two :*

  • Bill G.


    Bill G.


    Top Contributor

    I wouldn't "translate" it. I think you can't ignore the comments of the readers -- IF there are enough of them, however. The telling point is that it's YA -- and if the readership is YA they might not be sophisticated enough to understand that English is often spelled differently -- not to mention all the ways it can be spelled differently. Frankly, few Americans (or I expect English) could give you ALL the ways.

    So -- if there's enough problems from the YA readers then I'd simply put in an introductory note that English and American spelling are different with some examples -- organize/organise, honor/honour, offense/offence, etc. -- and that English spelling is used.

  • Jackie D.


    Jackie D.

    Owner, Cambridge Publishing Management

    I would advise you NOT to 'translate' this book. As previously mentioned, there are differences in spelling, punctuation and syntax between British and American English. Furthermore, certain scenarios will simply not occur in the US so you'll end up rewriting parts of the story. If you YA US readers really don't know that certain words are spelled differently in the UK, insert a note to say that as the story is based in the UK, UK spelling is used, but if they don't that will they relate to the story anyway? I recently saw someone on a message board ask what OAPs stood for. If you don't know or can't be troubled to Google a definition, I doubt changing the phrase to senior citizen will help much.

  • Ian

    Ian C.

    Alternative Medicine Professional

    The differences between American and British English can go further than spelling and punctuation, particularly with slang words. Two examples: "fanny" is a very mildly risque word in American but downright offensive in English and has a rather different meaning. For another one, I'll tell a little story. Many years ago, Walter Cronkite was interviewing Peter Cook (who was English, if you don't know) on TV in New York and Mr. Cook was fidgeting continually. Mr. Cronkite asked Mr. Cook what the problem was - only to be told "Sorry, but I don't feel right without a fag in my mouth." :-)

  • Gordon L.


    Gordon L.

    Author, Novelist, Publisher (sort of)

    "Two nations separated by a common language."

    Don't translate - you might as well write in French. Vive la difference!

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