Written by

OlgaNunez
I was born in Barcelona and have lived in the UK for many years now. I'm a writer, translator (English-Spanish and vice-versa) and I'm a medical doctor and worked in Forensic Psychiatry many years. I also have a BA and a PhD in American Literature and Film, and a Masters in Criminology. I've always loved books and apart from writing them I review them often. I write a bit of everything, check my books for more information and my about page for links. My blog is bilingual, English and Spanish.

Comments (52)

  1. JP McLean says:

    Thank you, Wendy, and Olga. I’d considered the spelling differences before, but the punctuation differences were new to me, and I learned a thing or two about word choice. Interesting!

    1. OlgaNunez says:

      Thanks, Jo-Anne. I must say between the different versions of English and my translations to and from Spanish I find it very difficult to keep all the differences straight in my head. That’s why it’s great to have sharp-eyed and really queued up professionals like Wendy to keep us on the straight and narrow. Have a great weekend!

    2. Wendy Janes says:

      I’m an ex-teacher, so I’m especially pleased to hear that you’ve learned something from the post!

  2. dgkaye says:

    Wow, fantastic post from Wendy. Lots to think about here. I’d never realized how many different people interpret terms differently. I’m Canadian, and I remembered speaking with my editor when I wrote my first book, asking which language to write in. She suggested I use American English because of the majority of North American readers. 🙂

    1. OlgaNunez says:

      Wendy is a star for sure. I normally use UK English, although I read so many books from everywhere (and studied American Literature) that I suspect it’s more hodge-podge than either. Well, if people have ever watched Fawlty Towers will know my ‘I know nothing. I’m from Barcelona’ line…

      1. dgkaye says:

        Lol Olga, I remember watching that show years ago. 🙂

        1. OlgaNunez says:

          I was a bit puzzled when I got to the UK first as they kept laughing about that, but although I’d watched it back in Catalonia, there Manuel was from Mexico, not Barcelona. But I must say it’s a winning line…

          1. dgkaye says:

            Lol, yup. 🙂

          2. OlgaNunez says:

            😉

    2. Wendy Janes says:

      Thanks for the lovely response. Isn’t language fascinating.

      1. dgkaye says:

        Indeed it is Wendy. 🙂

  3. Let's CUT the Crap! says:

    I’m Canadian. I was sure I knew the differences much better The punctuation threw me. I’m with Debby. Easier to use US English it appears.

    1. OlgaNunez says:

      It seems so indeed, although I’m with Wendy that the main thing is to try and be consistent. I do remember a comment about Mummy being thought of as the monster in the US so now I’m careful with that. I think eventually we’ll end up creating a new language. And if text-speak is anything to go by… Thanks, Tess.

    2. Wendy Janes says:

      Yes, punctuation of quotations is so much easier with US English. I used to proofread a lot of non-fiction that was full of quoted material, and I’d breathe a sigh of relief when the publisher confirmed a book was in US English.

  4. Rosie Amber says:

    A while a go I was asked to review a book written by a Canadian all about the missing days in Agatha Christie’s life, when I said his American uses of words in this very English setting, and his choices of some of the content he’d used to try to make it authentic just didn’t sit well with me, he was very adamant that it was all ok because he’s checked the Oxford English Dictionary (I presume current version, not one from Christie’s time period) and his English mother-in-law. But he had purse, sidewalk, creek, all our roads as cobblestones, butterflies in January, crazy European cars and numerous other ill-fitting parts.

    1. OlgaNunez says:

      Bless! I remember reading a book by a Spanish friend of mine where his characters, police detectives, arrived to the UK and rented a car at the airport. A Bentley. I did tell him it made no sense, but he didn’t seem too concerned about it. I did see an Infographic showing visually different spellings and uses of words in the US, and of course the same is true in the UK (I remember how confused I got when I was doing locums all over the UK and I never even knew what the different types of breads were called in different places, breadcakes, cobs… And little children up North are bairns…)

    2. Wendy Janes says:

      That’s really interesting, Rosie. It’s not only the language but things like seasons and culture that are so important to get right to ensure a book sounds authentic.

      Olga, you’ve also reminded me how important knowledge of culture is when writing. I’ve always been interested in how different countries eat different breads. I think it began when I stayed with a French family on a school exchange and I was astonished that their baguettes were so different to the sliced loaf I was used to.

  5. barbtaub says:

    I love this post! As an expat, I adore adding up the differences between UK and US English. As a book reader/reviewer, I do get annoyed though about the number of times writers get this wrong. Just recently I was trying to wade through a novel supposedly set in the USA, but with characters who carried handbags instead of purses, wore jumpers (which only 5-year-old girls wear in the US), did a course at University instead of going to college, and followed dinner with pudding instead of dessert. I gave up and suggested the author get a competent editor.

    1. OlgaNunez says:

      Thanks, Barb. I guess an advantage of sci-fi or setting stories in fictional countries or places is that one can make it up and such inconsistencies will not be noticed. But if the setting is very important it can be a pain. I guess if the story is engaging enough one might bypass such things but you’re right about the role of editors.

    2. Wendy Janes says:

      Thanks, Barb. So pleased you enjoyed this post. As an ex-pat I think you’re in a privileged position! Yes, as you and Olga suggest, a good editor can really help to get this (and so many other things) right.

  6. Mary Smith says:

    Great post. I’m fascinated by the differences in the languages. Didn’t know the punctuation rules when using quote marks were different.

    1. OlgaNunez says:

      Thanks, Mary. It’s a fascinating subject and a minefield. Thankfully we have Wendy to guide us. Have a great weekend!

    2. Wendy Janes says:

      Thank you, Mary. I’m so pleased to hear you share my fascination. Yes, although punctuation of speech is the same, punctuation of quotations is different.

      Olga, you’re right it can be a minefield! I’ve only recently found out that the word “table” used as a verb means to “bring forward for discussion” in UK English, and to “remove from consideration” in US. A potential cause for confusion if misunderstood at a business meeting!

      1. OlgaNunez says:

        That’s a new one for me too. Thanks, Wendy.

  7. Teagan Geneviene says:

    Hi Olga. I’m pleased to know your mother is doing better. Nice to meet Wendy. Hugs.

    1. OlgaNunez says:

      Thanks so much, Teagan. She’s better, thanks. Yes, Wendy is fabulous.

    2. Wendy Janes says:

      Hi, Teagan.

      So pleased that your mother is feeling better, Olga.

      Thanks for saying I’m fabulous! 🙂

      1. OlgaNunez says:

        Thanks, Wendy! And it’s true!

  8. beetleypete says:

    I love posts like these, as I cannot bear the intrusion of ‘American English’ into our language. (Then again, I am something of an old moaner…)
    I was fed up enough to post this, almost four years ago.
    https://beetleypete.wordpress.com/2012/08/23/americanese/
    Best wishes, Pete.

    1. OlgaNunez says:

      Thanks, Pete. You should see what they do to Spanish…

      1. beetleypete says:

        I can only imagine, Olga!

        1. OlgaNunez says:

          Scary, scary, and the numbers are much higher on the other side…:)

    2. Wendy Janes says:

      Really enjoyed your post, Pete.

      1. beetleypete says:

        Thanks, Wendy. Nice to ‘meet’ you!
        Best wishes, Pete.

  9. Pauline Wiles says:

    This topic causes me endless fascination and headaches. As a UK-born author who’s lived in the USA for 12 years, I write fiction populated by both British and American characters, set in an English village… but with the USA and Canada as my primary target market. I’m also an indie author, so I dread being accused of “typos” when the word, grammar and punctuation choices are deliberate and carefully checked. And yes, I often have to sneak in a bit of context when talking about biscuits, or flapjack. Or pants! And the parts of a car are a total nightmare. Even more subtle are word choices like “come see me tomorrow” (American) versus “come and see me tomorrow” (UK). As I recall, Fifty Shades of Grey was particularly famous for getting most of this stuff wrong.
    Wendy, I often think if the USA and UK were ever at war, I could get a job spotting the spies for the other side who don’t get it quite right! And it amuses me no end, when reading a book by a famous author like Marian Keyes, to spot the words I’m convinced they changed for the US market. Unless people in Dublin really do leave their cars in parking lots, which I highly doubt.

    1. OlgaNunez says:

      Pauline, great comment! I’ve seen people who include a disclaimer about such things at the beginning of their book but I guess it’s impossible to do it correctly to everybody’s taste. And big publishers have much bigger pockets and can afford different versions but…

    2. Wendy Janes says:

      Loved reading your comment, Pauline. I have to admit to a childish giggle whenever I hear about men wearing pants to the office. Even better when they’re wearing vest and pants. Gosh, yes, you have the perfect experience to spot those spies.

  10. Iris B says:

    Great post. I blogged about this as well recently because I love the subject. I grew up in Germany, was tought UK English, moved to Australia a few years back and was surprised by the many differences, not only in regard to spelling. As a writer having an US editor can be a challenge, but in a positive way. …. I won’t even mention how often I had to ask people to explain what they were talking about when we went to Nz.☺

    1. OlgaNunez says:

      Thanks for your comment, Iris. You’ve made my head spin. I think however much we want to cater to all readers, there are very small differences and niggles that very few people would catch and eventually it has to be acknowledged that all books come from somewhere and are written by somebody and that person can’t be omniscient and be from everywhere. We have to try but there is no perfect book (at least I haven’t come across it, although I’ve read some pretty good ones!).

      1. Iris B says:

        Agree … bottom line, as much as we should have a “clean” book when it comes grammar and spelling, in the end it’s the story that counts.

  11. Fascinating! I was aware of the spellings, parentheses, and some of the word meanings, but a lot of the rest, not! What a headache for an editor/proofreader! My editor lives in England, and bless her for knowing all this!

    1. Thanks, Noelle! My mind boggles. I’m happy to do translations but I need to make sure a good proofreader checks the result because the differences with the rules in Spanish are also huge.

  12. Hello Olga. I’m glad to hear that your mom is feeling better.
    Thanks Olga and Wendy for this information but I think I’m sticking with US English. 😉

    1. Thanks so much, Vashti. It’s been a very worrying time but things are looking up. After so many years living in the UK I’m more familiar with everyday use of UK English, although I studied American Literature and I read many books written in US English… 😉

  13. […] Here I leave you a sample in Sound Cloud and You Tube so you can check the fabulous narration of Marlin May. He’s told me he’s also available to adapt books written in UK English to US English (I’m sure you all remember Wendy Janes’s great post about the differences between the two. You can refresh your memory here). […]

  14. As I told previous commenter Pete, my first encounter with the spelling problem was when I was 9 or 10 and my spelling test for that week came back with one of the 20 words marked as incorrect. Well, that was ridiculous, as I never misspelled any words! 😀 Under the influence of my English grandmother and the English literature I had been reading since age 4, I had spelled “honor” as “honour.” The teacher agreed to accept it as correct “just this once” but told me to use American spellings going forward.

    I freelance mostly for American outlets (print and web), but for a few years I was writing regularly for a British magazine and so got quite comfortable going back and forth between the two languages; and I cater to both on my food blog.

    1. Wendy Janes says:

      Hi Jean, I can only imagine the sense of injustice you felt when your correct spellings were marked as incorrect at school! Thanks for sharing.

  15. Really enjoyed this post and in equal measure the comments. Isn’t language entertaining?

    1. It’s a wonder, I agree, Susan. 🙂

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