I owe you guys a short post. The last two were pretty long.

What is your opinion of writing in dialect? Pirate lingo was created in Hollywood, but today it’s accepted by everyone. It’s so well known, that most readers expect pirates to talk a certain way. But would you write it that way?

I wrote recently about a character of mine named Roald. He has a distinct accent. Would you prefer this:

“By golly, I tink I talk yust fine,” Roald said.

Or this:

“By golly, I think I talk just fine,” Roald said.

As a reader, I think dialect is kind of fun. (That’s a personal opinion.) I can see where chapters of this might get tiresome. All the writing coaches say it should be written the second way, but only after making it clear to the reader.

Right now, I’m all for method one – if the character is limited to a minor appearance. Roald plays a substantial, if supporting, role in my novel. (The Cock of the South) I wrote him the second way. I need to get busy with more edits, and I could change him.

“Vy you gotta be changing everyting around? Yumpin yiminy vy don’t you yust push publish?”

“Whoa, buddy. I’m just trying to learn something here.”

What do the masses say? As readers, do you love or hate dialect?


Filed under Writing

12 responses to “Dialect

  1. Tough call. I think having a dialect adds some authenticity and character to the, um, character. But, if the reader’s brain has to slow down in order to figure out what the character is saying because the dialect is so thick and/or unusual, it could get in the way of the narrative. I know. This is no help at all.


  2. I had old negro speak in my novel for three chapters…there were times when I took over as the 1st person narrator and told some of his story because it even got to be a challenge for me. It does lend authenticity. I also had to be very careful to make it 1993 negro speak for an eighty year old man and not 1893 negro speak and do so with sensitivity. I know, if not done well dialect can be a bitch. Especially if the spelling is too hard for the modern phonetics and there are too many consonants in a row like some of the Gaelic writing and fantasy writing I have read. Do you ever listen to Professor VJ’s The Hut? http://thepunchylands.wordpress.com/salamis-hut/
    Prime example…sometime it even gets too difficult to hear.


  3. feardorcha82

    I’m a firm believer that dialect should be used sparingly. I agree that it does lend authenticity but this can easily be achieved with a few choice words and phrases added to the characters dialogue. At the end of the day, the character needs to be understood to move the narrative along.


  4. I enjoy dialect, depending on the role of the character. It is another layer that makes them more authentic, as the writer above stated.


  5. As long as I can understand what is being said without thinking too very much, I love dialect. It makes it more authentic, more realistic, more like a real person and not just words on a page. But sometimes, there is a thin line between not enough and too much. I always try to limit myself to one or two characters with dialect.


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