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  1. Practical Advice for Writing Dialect | Writing Forward
  2. When & How to Write Dialect
  3. Brainstorm or Research Regional Turns of Phrase
  4. How to write accents and dialects: 6 tips

There are few of us left who have the pure blood, the old look. Most of us have married into the city-world. Or died in the bush, unable to live in these times. I am a university student. He turned to look at the drifting plume of smoke. It is easy to distinguish the speakers in this conversation, even with very little attribution because each character speaks with a unique voice.

Practical Advice for Writing Dialect | Writing Forward

He grimaced in disgust, then wiped grease from his chin. In SchoolNet. Someone said that some guy from Upper Form did it as a graduation prank. Killed them dead. But the blowdown on SchoolNet killed a lot of Crafts and even some high-level Constellations, backups and all. Renie sighed. Crafts, Constellations—if she were not a net-literate instructor herself, she would probably think her brother was speaking a foreign language. Have you read any of that book I gave you? He chewed. We got this flowpast off a guy in Upper Form. We were almost downtown! Open ticket! Moderation is essential Be conservative.


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Whatever combination of techniques you use to render an accent or dialect in dialogue, use them with a light hand. Check out other books with similar characters. Then choose just half a dozen or so nonstandard spellings and contractions, and use them consistently. Diana Gabaldon does this well with believable Scottish brogue in her novel Outlander. Here is an excerpt:. So a suggestion was made that Colum be allowed to become laird, as he should in the ordinary way, and Dougal be made war chieftain, to lead the clan in time of battle.

Rely more on diction, syntax, and idiom Diction is word choice; syntax is word order.


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  • Practical Advice for Writing Dialect?

One interesting tidbit I learned in my research is that Appalachian speech patterns, which many people tend to equate with a lack of education and backwoods isolation, may derive from the formal Elizabethan English of early settlers from the British Isles. Diction word choice Different dialects use different words to convey the same meaning, or the same word to convey a different meaning. This can be as simple as Brits ordering chips while North Americans order French fries. And North American chips are crisps to Brits.

Or, he quite often comes home.

When & How to Write Dialect

Idioms An idiom is an expression, a combination of regular words, that is unique to a particular dialect or language and may not make sense to any other. Most non-native English speakers will learn the present tense but will take much longer to pick up the various more complex verb forms and tenses. Some final tips 1. Occasionally, you can leave the dialogue in standard English and simply describe the accent to readers. Drop the indefinite or definite articles a and the , or mix them up.

Break some English grammar rules.

For example, use comma splices or nonstandard grammar, just as I did in the two examples just above. Be consistent. Read out loud. Make sure the dialogue has rhythm and consistency, even in its oddities. Use a combination of all the techniques described here. The most effective dialogue combines appropriate idioms, jargon, and foreign words, a few misspellings, a few contractions, and careful attention to word choice, word order, tone, and rhythm. Be aware of subtleties in speech patterns as well as word choice. Give your characters respect, dignity, authenticity Respect your characters.

Conservative use of all these techniques will give them dignity and authenticity. Your ultimate goal is to give your readers authentic, realistic characters while still giving them a smooth and pleasant reading experience.

Please share them in the comments here and contribute to the discussion! I welcome all comments. Please note that Disqus is a secure commenting system requiring moderator approval, and it may be a short while before I receive notification of your comment, approve it, and reply.

Listen and Take Notes

Thanks for your patience! Love it! A greatly needed article. I love studying cultural idiom and dialectic patterns in our speech. Being in Kansas City gives me Allen contact with so many! I recently posted a breakdown of a peculiar double-contraction that shifts into an entirely new pattern around here — posted it as me Facebook status. Thank goodness folks are used to my word nerd-iness. Thanks for your comment, David.

Brainstorm or Research Regional Turns of Phrase

Yes, in general I think editors want to see a minimum of phonetically spelled dialect and foreign accents. I admit I went overboard with some of my examples just to make the point. I particularly like your first tip — write it in English first to get the words down before changing the language pattern.

And the important reminder to writers to respect their characters. This is a very informative piece, Arlene. Thanks for your comment, Irene. Yes, overkill is to be avoided at any cost. I just hope I stressed subtlety enough. I was excited over this topic. I, too, have different dialects in my book, as in portraying a black female slave, a gentleman from the south, and an Irishman with each their own drawl or accent.

How to write accents and dialects: 6 tips

I find that when used in the right way, at the right time, this can enhance what the writer is trying to say. I also agree that consistency is important when using this tool. Thanks for your comment, June. Yes, consistency—and moderation—are two of the main areas of concern in writing effective dialects and foreign accents. And keep the nonstandard spellings to a minimum. PenUltimate Editorial Services. Pingback: Character Development — Dialogue requilynn. Thanks for sharing this book here, Lynne. Her father, Floyd Skloot, is also an author, who has written extensively about mental illness.

Thank you for the tips; sometimes while translating we forget to consider all the facts about a character that the writer probably knows by heart or just by feeling…. I try to start with a greeting or phrase in their language and then continue in English. The meaning of the foreign words is usually obvious from the context, especially if the language is one of the more common ones like French or Spanish. Ah know you want dat pie.


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  6. Ah know you do. This is incredibly bad. The language is absurdly disguised behind the pretense of dialect. To be sure, it is an exaggeration. But each choice made by the writer-a misspelling here, an apostrophe there-is a little piece of what most people consider to be the essence of writing dialect. That is, it shoots for the sound of the words rather than the words themselves. Ever wonder if you can copyright an idea?