American English vs British English in writingWritten by Lauren Mayhew

Ok, this may seem obvious to most of you, but here is a quick pointer to differences in English and American English words. I have read many books written by non-British authors that contain English characters and not all of the terminology has been correct. The same can be said for British authors writing American characters too.

To me as a reader, this is only relevant to books written in first person or for dialogue. In descriptive text, feel free to use ‘Organization’ instead of ‘Organisation’. This is only relevant to when a British/ American character is speaking/ thinking.

I know that if I was writing an American, Australian or British character, I’d need to do some research into certain words that may be different. Here’s a little list of words or phrases that are used differently. (I’ve put the American English first.)

Band-Aid  –  Plaster

Bangs  –  Fringe

Block  –  Street

Candy  –  Sweets

Cell Phone  –  Mobile Phone (to be honest, I just say phone..)

Crossing Guard  –  Lollipop Man/ Lady (you probably won’t ever have to use this one, but I love it)

Diaper  –  Nappy

Fall  –  Autumn

Faucet  –  Tap

Flashlight  –  Torch

French Fries  –  Chips

Galoshes  –  Wellies

Gas  –  Petrol

Jello  –  Jelly

Jelly  –  Jam

Math  –  Maths

Mom/ Mommy  –  Mum/ Mummy

Pants  –  Trousers (pants mean underwear in England)

Potato Chips  –  Crisps

Recess  –   Break Time

Robe  –  Dressing Gown

Sidewalk  –  Pavement

Sneakers  –  Trainers

Soccer  –  Football

Sweater  –  Jumper

Trash Can  –  Dustbin

Vacation  –  Holiday

A Fortnight is a measurement of time. A fortnight is equal to two weeks.

After Patrick ever so kindly edited my book, he brought a few more words and phrases to my attention that I presumed everyone knew! Here they are:

Coconut Shy  –  This is a fairgound game where coconuts are sat on little pedestals and you American English vs British English Coconut Shyhave to try and knock one off with a ball to win a prize.

Eggs and Soldiers  –  A boiled egg with toast cut into strips (soldiers) to dunk into it.

Faffing around  –  To ‘faff’ around: to spend your time doing a lot of things that are not important instead of the thing that you should be doing.

Stonking  –  Used to emphasize something that is impressive, exciting or very big. I used it like this: How do you hide a stonking great Land Rover?

There are so many words that I would love to put in here, but most of them aren’t really appropriate for a YA audience. If you’re ever in doubt about a word, ask someone. I’d be more than happy to help any fellow authors with British slang. Just send me a message or tweet!

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