Write your novel with US words and spelling, they said.

So I tried, I really did.

After all, Australian television has so many American shows and sit-coms, right?

All I needed to do was make a few adjustments –  no ‘u’ in ardour, behaviour, colour, honour, glamour, flavour, labour, neighbour, odour, valour, vapour, favourite  …

I’d change words like centre, litre, theatre to center, liter, and theater; and replace the odd ‘s’ with a ‘z’.

American and Australian language has a LOT of similarities. However, I ended up changing more words than I expected –


Poor thongs…


Gravel became road metal

Car park  > parking lot

Windscreen > windshield

Boot > trunk

Bonnet  > hood

Lift (building) > elevator

Toilet > washroom, restroom (so much nicer!)

Chips > french fries

Serviette > napkin

Restaurant bill > restaurant check

Bucket > pail

Verandah > porch or deck

Wardrobe > cupboard

Door frame > door jamb

Jumper > sweater

Singlet > talk top, athletic shirt

Bitumen  > asphalt


Photo credit: Yank in Australia

Gutter > kerb

Tyre > tire

Dressing gown > robe,

My writing began to look like a mixed breed dog. Arafura had an Australian setting with Australian characters, but you could hear the fake American accents a mile away.

A rough example – ‘Hey y’all, this dude must have a few kangaroos missing in the top paddock’ , or ‘I’m super excited to be wearing my awesome new togs!’

I gave a very wide berth to ‘fanny’ and ‘rooting’ (not even going there …) For some reason I couldn’t come at blokes saying ‘ass’ instead of ‘arse’, and stubbornly held onto ‘thongs’ (meaning flip-flops, not G-string).

In the end my prose sounded awkward, so I decided to stick to Australian words. Although I tried to stay away from slang, I think a few colloquialisms snuck in here and there. (Hope I didn’t make too much of a galah of myself.)


Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1yhcfYo


This Aussie-American couple have it sorted –

What word differences come to mind for you?

This entry was posted in American spelling, Aussie slang, Australian fiction, Australian romantic suspense, writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Write your novel with US words and spelling, they said.

  1. thenoveilst says:

    And in UK, they don’t want it the US way…oh boy… lol

  2. Wow looking through you list I was surprised at how many words are so different. I’m glad you stuck with Australian I think it will sound much more genuine. Good luck 😊😊

  3. An Australian book with US language did sound strange. It surprised me how many differences there were! Thank you! 🙂

  4. Good on you Susan. Although I dare say I’ve always thought ‘ass’ to be much more refined than ‘arse’. I must admit I didn’t notice any Americanisms in the first book. I don’t think I’d notice anyway unless it was something overt. We’re so used to it now with the telly and everything as you said.

    • I think I was just trying to get the right blokey voice with ‘arse’. My husband helped, you know…
      I looked up American slang and you’re right, there aren’t many surprises. Thanks for visiting, Pinky. 🙂

  5. Carrie Rubin says:

    So many differences! Adds another challenge to writing–a process that’s already difficult enough. 🙂

  6. Ha living in Canada I would still much prefer Your Australian version of words than American. We have similar spelling as you but when it comes to something like “lift” over “elevator” I would choose “lift” if I had the choice. Sounds so much more interesting 🙂 I can only imagine what I’m about to face in my professional edit of my manuscript. I always write “Colour” neighbour” etc. We shall see how many Canadian mistakes I’ve made.

  7. alanamaree says:

    That sounds so bloody HARD. Good luck with the book. Love the Sylvia Plath quote on the blog!!!

  8. How could anyone expect you to strip your novel of all that flavor? It’s like a recipe: you may have all the right ingredients, but you’ve got no seasoning–no salt. And that gives everything punch.
    I’m glad you stuck with it, Susan. The language isn’t that difficult to interpret–especially if it’s done artfully with context. I think many Americans hunger for truth and authenticity in their stories–plus it provides us all a little opportunity to learn something new and appreciate our worldly cultures.

    • Dear Shelley, I’m so glad you don’t think it would be too difficult for a reader to adjust, if done well.
      That’s why we travel, isn’t it? To experience the different flavours of life? (Note my funny spelling?)
      Cheers 🙂

  9. livelytwist says:

    I enjoyed the video! Nice couple too.
    My speaking and writing is littered with British and American words. Growing up in Nigeria, I was taught British words and spellings. The influence of American culture, movies, and books has taken it’s toll. On my blog, I default to British spelling, but can be flexible with words and expressions.

    Susan, for me this was the best thing about your writing process:
    “In the end my prose sounded awkward, so I decided to stick to Australian words.”

    You hear your words as you write, at least I do, and I like to think that if they sound awkward to you, they will to your readers, whether they are American or Australian.

  10. ChristineR says:

    Reblogged this on Christine R and commented:
    I had no idea that so many word variations existed between Australia and the U.S. Just lately, I’ve been thinking about this subject and, while I was willing to drop the odd ‘u’ and swap ‘s’ and ‘z’, I know I couldn’t adopt all the other words. If there should be complaints in the reviews (assuming I get that far), then I will simply issue an American version. Thanks Susan, for making me think about this some more!

  11. I object strenuously to the idea that we have to change words for the American market! We have our own national identity – less powerful and less well known, but no less precious for all that. And words are an integral part of it – the seasoning that gives our literature it’s own unique flavour. What’s more, this sort of conformity implies that while we’re smart enough to understand Americanisms, at the first hint of ‘footpath’ instead of ‘sidewalk’, American readers are out of their depth. How insulting!

    • Hi Helen. Well said! This writing journey has taught me many things, one is not to bend too much in the wind for people (who may be in the minority anyway). Early on, someone told me my first story had too many colloquialisms for an overseas market. That’s when I tried to suit others. But it just didn’t work. Besides, you’re right, readers are smart. 🙂

  12. M-R says:

    It can’t be done. If you were advised to do it for sales purposes, it was bad advice. Tell me why Americans wouldn’t be interested in your novels because they’re set in Oz ? – they WOULD be. They ARE.

    • Hello Margaret, just ordered your book, it looks really interesting. 🙂
      Yes, I was advised to use US words and spelling from a number of people, for sales purposes. And you are correct, it can’t be done if set in Australia! I was also influenced by someone who told me Americans wouldn’t understand my novel, Arafura, but I now realise that was bad advice too. I think I need to listen to my gut feelings a little more. Thanks for visiting.

      • M-R says:

        I believe really firmly in gut feelings !
        And I am envious of you: I can’t write fiction, no matter how hard I try. There just isn’t anything bloody THERE !
        I should dearly love to be able toL in fact, I’d give my back teeth for it. But no, no muse. No vestige of a muse.
        So good on you !

  13. I find that very hard to believe, and would love to put you to the test in a flash fiction workshop! 🙂 You might be surprised. I am a firm believer in what the mind can come up with when it has some peace and quiet.
    Looking forward to reading your book, my husband wants to read it after me!

  14. That sounds so hard! I agree, always listen to your gut 🙂

  15. suzjones says:

    I don’t agree with changing a book to suit the audience. How does the reader learn about the culture of another country if they don’t adapt? Isn’t it a part of learning and growth?
    I’m sorry. I just think that asking an author to change things to suit others isn’t fair.

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