Monday Musings: Britishisms—and how they can affect your global reach.

As a British author, who writes novels/stories set in England, with English characters, it comes naturally to me to use British words or terms. But what affect can that have on how a book is received when the reach of its readership is on a global scale?

I would like to be able to argue that it has no affect but I’d be lying if I did so—especially when the use of certain words (ones quite valid in the Oxford English Dictionary) are pointed out in reviews or in direct conversation by folk who have read my stuff.

Yep, I’m talking about those dreaded ‘st’ sounds on the ends of words.

Primarily, it’s adding to while to create whilst (though I could argue everyone else dropped it rather than us adding it), or amongst over among/amidst over amid.

It seems (some of) my International readers have a real issue with these words stumbling their flow.

Whilst (ha!) the reviewers who bring this up are in the minority, I can’t ignore a tweet I spotted from an author whose work I’ve had the chance to view and loved, citing her dislike (translate: hate) of the word ‘whilst’ (and if she calls in here, she’ll know I’m talking about her, and will likely throw shoes at me across the pond—eeek!).

Anyhoo, although her tweet was (seemingly) random and was not in reference to my work, it still got me to thinking about my own personal use of it. It also led to a debate with my publisher.

In case you’re wondering, it’s a debate I lost.

You see, whilst (hehehe) all Holloway Pack stories written from Jem’s POV use this word, as do the shorter works written from Sean’s POV (and my short for the Make Believe antho: Escort to Insanity), I argued that not ALL Brits add on the ‘st’ sound and speak this way.

I’ll admit, I initially wrote all of Jem’s dialogue/narration with this/these words included because that is how I speak, so it came naturally to me for my character to speak this way, also. And I’m hardly alone—many other Brits speak this way, despite one reviewer asking if ‘whilst’ was even a word. O_O

But my argument to my editor went along the lines of

‘How about if we switch it up for the male members of the pack, seeing as they sound a little less refined than Jem anyway?’

to which the final response was

‘No!’

And the bits in the between consisted of

‘You need to stay true to who you are as a writer, true to who your characters are, and true to the setting of your stories.’

So, it would seem the word ‘whilst’ will be staying.

But how about you guys? Do certain words trip you up when reading? Which do you think is more important: creating authentication … or generalising to appeal to a broader audience?