British or American - What's the Difference?

Okay - it seems like a pretty easy question, I know. One's in Europe, the other's in North, well, America.

But really, it's that much different in the writing world.

(Well, maybe it isn't, but it confused me when I was editing my novel so I'm gonna save you the confusion.)

There's much more to it than the spelling of the word. In fact, that's the last thing that determines if your piece of art is written in British- or American-style!

(Also, for your enjoyment, memes will be provided throughout.)



Quotations and conversations, if you may.

British uses a single quotation mark. It also places the full stop after the quotation rather than inside it. Let me visually demonstrate it for you;

'Are you sure?' she asked with an arched eyebrow. 'I clearly remember her saying she doesn't "want anything to do with it".'

In American writing, however, double quotation marks are used (and is personally my favorite) in conversation. Full stops are also placed inside the quotation rather than outside. Have a look;

"Are you sure?" she asked with an arched eyebrow. "I clearly remember her saying she doesn't 'want anything to do with it.'"

Both writing styles follow basic punctuation rules that we took in school, though. Hyphens, colons, commas - the whole thing. In this scenario it's just a matter of placement in dialogue.



Brits have always had a more ... sophisticated way of saying things, and that is reflected in writing too. Assuming I want to tell you that tomorrow I'll see my aunt.

If I was a character in a British-style piece of writing, I'd be saying;

'I shall see my aunt tomorrow.'

If I was in an American-style writing, I'd be saying;

"I will see my aunt tomorrow".

They're small details that make a smaller difference but matter a lot in setting the mood of your story or the outline of your characters. Such as in British you'd say you're "in a team", but in American you're "on a team".

Another cute difference I noticed while writing Foreshadow (which is written in American style) is that when I wrote "I had to get him out of his misery" my editor changed it to "I had to get him out of this funk", because it was more "American".

Interesting, right?



Now this is the one we've known the most all our lives - and probably made fun of a few ... dozen times.

(Okay more times than I can count - even though I am neither American nor British.)

There are 3 main spelling differences:

- the popular "u" and "no u"; color vs. colour.

- the "re" and "er" debate; center vs. centre.

- and the "s" or "z" discussion; realize vs. realise.


Personal Opinion

I really like American-style more, and the only reason is that I like the appearance of the words on the pages. The quotation marks also tickle my fancy (let's overlook how British that statement was) and the Americanized spellings just make more sense to me.

Also, my editor has told me that most people that edit with her pick the American style- even British authors. According to her, it's the more popular choice of style in novels.

(IMHO, mystery novels look better (and sound better) in British, but that could just be the Agatha Christie and Enid Blyton effect. Although I did read Karen McManus and still preferred the British, so ...)


And that, my friends, is what differs. The ultimate decision is up to you - where and when your novel's setting is, what the local custom is, and whether or not you like it.

I hope that this answered your question! And good luck on publishing your next (or first) novel. Remember to subscribe for more writing content and tips from yours truly ...!

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