How to convey accents in fiction writing: Beyond phonetic spelling – by Louise Harnby…

This article offers guidance on how to self-edit your fiction writing so that accents don’t become the primary story.
Do your characters speak with an accent? All of us speak in ways that are distinctive; we just don’t notice our own accents because they’re ours and we’re used to them.

Oxford Dictionaries defines accent as ‘A distinctive way of pronouncing a language, especially one associated with a particular country, area, or social class.’

Authors who are inexperienced at writing accented language can be tempted to use phonetic spelling. But writing accents is difficult; so is reading them. Most experienced authors and editors will therefore caution against this approach.

Furthermore, spelling and pronunciation are two different things. Says Beth Hill in The Magic of Fiction (pp. 409, 394):

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4 thoughts on “How to convey accents in fiction writing: Beyond phonetic spelling – by Louise Harnby…

  1. Reblogged this on Scott MacLean Art and commented:
    My own Scottish accent is an almost hourly amusement for the Americans I now live among. Mostly it’s a good ice breaker with strangers, sometimes an irritant when I have to repeat everything a couple of times, and occasionally it’s a test of my self-control when certain people mock it (and thus me) on a regular basis.
    I’ve written stories based both here in the States as well as back in Scotland and the only accent I’ve ever made obvious is the Scots one in my first novel. I used the sparing ‘dropped consonant ‘ as described in the blog, for instance no’ instead of not, or the occasional Scots spelling of contractions such as couldnae in place of couldn’t. Otherwise I stuck to normal English.
    This is a good blog to read and it shows that with a little thought you can show an accent in many ways.
    As an aside, as Scot in pastures new the one phrase I teach Americans to say which automatically gives them a Scottish accent without trying is for them to say ‘space ghetto’ in their normal voice. Most of the time an American saying that will sound like they are using a Scottish accent to say ‘Spice Girls’.

    Liked by 2 people


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