American Vs. British Grammar and Style

Because I’m gearing up to go to university in the UK, and I’ve been brought up to know Americanese, I decided I should look into any potential problems I might come across when writing my essays at uni. I was mostly thinking along the lines of punctuation rules, though as it turns out, there’s quite a few differences!

Singular and Plural Group Nouns

Group nouns are nouns (person, place, or thing) that have to do with a group of people or beings. So, a pack of wolves, the government, the staff, a team, etc. Apparently, while Americans will always have a singular verb following, depending on the context, British English with have either singular or plural.

The examples given by One Stop English are as follows:

British:
My team is winning.
The other team are all sitting down.

American:
Which team is winning?

British:
Which team is/are losing?

To go a little further, The Writer makes mention that Americans have a tendency to view brand names as teams, and thus will treat them as a single entity, while in British English, it is treated as a plural.

British:
Amazon have changed their logo

American:
Google is making a new phone

Take and Have

In American English, some verbs use “take” in front of them. However, in similar verbs, British English would use “have” instead of “take”. .

Have a shower –> Take a shower
Have a holiday –> Take a vacation
Have a nap –> Take a nap

Past Tenses

We’ll work with the generic term of past tense, for now, and just ignore the various past tenses that branch out from taking about events which have gone. However, there are some terms that are used one way in one country, and differently in the other. I’ll only point out the blaring ones, but you can read the whole of the table here.

American | British

Gotten      | got
Pleaded/pled |pleaded
Proven      | proved
Stank/stunk | stank
Woke/waked | woke

Spellings

When looking at the spelling differences between American English and British English, it’s easy to see the connection to France. Many of the British English spellings are similar to the French spellings of similar words. I can’t say why American English decided they were cool enough to alter language and the history that comes with it, but I suppose that makes a statement about the country itself.

–our

There are some of the obvious ones, that if you speak a latin-based alnaguage on the side of English, happen to live very close to Canada, or just love to read British books, you’ll already know. These ones are the general insertion of the letter u into certain, or the reversing of “er” in other words:

color–>colour
neighbor–>neighbour
valor–>valour
theater–>theatre
center–>centre
fiber–>fibre

There are exceptions to this. Words like acre, massacre, mediocre, and ogre all carry the same spelling in all versions of English.

–og

Words which end in -og in American English are not exempt from spelling alterations. In British English, this will glue back on some vowels, –ue, to be precise. Words like:

analog–>analogue
epilog–>epilogue
catalog–>catalogue

However, as both SpellZone and my American spellcheck assure me, the –ue ending is acceptable in US spellings as well.

–se

Other words trade out an s for a z (by the way, in the UK, and basically every other English-speaking country other than the US, a z is called “zed”). In words ending in -ize in American English, the British kick out the zed and turn it to an s:

realize–>realise
demonize–>demonise
sensationalized–>sensationalised

–ce

However, in American English, we hold on to the s, in some words, while in British English, it might be a c. These are generally words ending in –se such as:

defense–>defence
license–>licence
offense–>offence

But it gets a little more complicated than that. While in American English, we’re happy to have many words have the same spelling for their verb as their noun, in English spelling they will change the spelling.

American English, words like practice, license, and advice are all spelled the same regardless of whether they’re an action word or a thing. However, in British English:

Noun | Verb

Practice | Practise
Licence | License
Advice | Advise

–ae/–oe

Then there’s the obscure ones, such as words written with a ae/oe in British English. Those words, when translated into American spellings, shift to just an e. So, words like:

anemia–>anaemia
osophagus–>osoephagus
pediatric–>paediatric

-l/-ll

This gets interesting. Let’s start with the basic, present tense. There are American English words which end in -oll and -ill, which when written in British English, drop one of the l’s:

fulfill–>fulfil
enroll–>enrol

However, if something generally ends in -ll (like skill), but there is a modifier on it which turns it to an adjective, American English will just tack the modifier on without change. British English, will get rid of the l’s in the root word before doing this:

skillful–>skilful

If there is a modifier which alters the verb, but still keeps it a verb, then there is no change in spelling. Example words are:

signaling
propelled
revealing

There is an exception to this rule, and unfortunately, I can’t give any details as to why this is an exception. But in British English, turning label to past tense warrants an extra l in there at the end, whereas in American English, it doesn’t.

Labeled–>labelled
cancel–>cancelled
traveled–>travelled

There is a more extensive list of these anomalies here, or you can see more sources in the links at the bottom of the page.

Odd ones out

There are more odd ones out, and a few will be listed here (American spelling first, as has been the trend in this post), though a more extensive list can be found this Quora Forum.

Hiccup–>hiccough
Mold–>mould
Donut–>doughnut
Tires–>tyres (the wheel)
Program–>programme
check–>cheque
grey–>gray

Punctuation

Quotation Marks

General

Most people have read something published in the UK, and might have spotted the difference when it comes to quotation marks. In the US, the double marks are used (as you’ll have seen earlier in this post, but incase you haven’t, these are “double quotations”). In British literature, you’ll see the ‘single quotations’. This is also the only reason why I made sure every one of my Harry Potter books were purchased in the UK.

With other punctuation

This one gets a little tricky to explain, so I’ll take a quote right from the Oxford University Style Guide:

“If the quote would have required punctuation in its original form, place the punctuation inside the quotation marks. (if it is unclear, try writing the whole sentence out without quotation marks and ‘he said’ etc, and replace the resulting punctuation.)

Bob likes cheese –>    ‘Bob’, I said, ‘likes cheese.’ OR
‘Bob likes cheese,’ I said.

Bob, do you like cheese? –>  ‘Bob,’ I asked, ‘do you like cheese?’

Out, damn’d spot!–>  ‘Out,’ said Lady Macbeth, ‘damn’d spot!’

‘You’re engaged to Florence?’ I yipped, looking at him with wild surmise.

“Place any punctuation which does not belong to the quote outside the quotation marks (except closing punctuation if the end of the quote is also the end of the sentence).

After all, tomorrow is another day. –>
‘After all,’ said Scarlett, ‘tomorrow is another day.’ OR
‘After all, tomorrow’, said Scarlett, ‘is another day.’

‘The kitchen’, he said, ‘is the heart of the home.’”

Terminology

Sentence Ending

This actually has nothing to do with the use of it, but rather the terminology. In American English, the end of the sentence is generally (though not always) concluded with a period. In British English, it’s concluded with a full stop. It’s the same dot at the end, just different ways of comment on it.

Lettering

Likewise, while there is different terminology for the end of a sentence, there is different terminology at the beginning of it (as well as other applications). The first word of a sentence is always capitalized/capitalised. In the UK, it’s common to say capitalised lettering and small letters, whereas in the States, they’ll be referred to as upper and lower cases.

[()]

There are two meanings for the word “bracket”. In the US, a bracket is the square looking things that we might use in math problems, and sometimes in journalism and quoting: [ ]. In the UK, however, they are the rounder ones, the ones that are called, in the US, parentheses, as well as the square ones. They differentiate in terms, calling them round brackets ( ) and square brackets [ ].

 

Helpful Note

  • According to One Stop English, in international classrooms—so classes on both sides of the pond—both forms of English are accepted.
  • There are plenty of online sources if confusion does occur
  • If you start with British English in a piece/paper, carry through in British English style. Likewise with American English. The moral of the story, is don’t mix and match.

More Links

 

 

Have you noticed some key gramatical differences between Englishes? What have I missed? Let me know in the comments!

Advertisements

Why Welsh Autumns Are the Best

I have a love/hate relationship with North Wales. I have spent my whole life visiting here, and while I’ve always loved seeing my granny and going to the beach when I was a child, moving here straight out of high school was a whole different experience. Being that it’s pretty touristy, I would go from manic summers where I was working 60-100 hour weeks (divided (mostly) between jobs), to having so little work that I needed benefit assistance to get me through the winter. It’s kind of intense.

I did that for the first four years of my adult life, and when I did finally move back to the States, I said I’d never do it again.

Well, here I am. I’ve just survived the insanity of the summer (with an injury this time–60 hours work is not my game any more, it would seem), and entering into the autumn. And I realize now why it is that I stayed for so long. The autumns here are the best.

img_3654

  1. It’s Quiet
    This is something that you wouldn’t really think of to notice unless you went through the summers here. People come from all over the country, and sometimes the world, to visit North Wales during the summer. It’s a beautiful place and there’s plenty to do–from the coastal paths to sailing to surfing, to just spending too much money.
    The village I live in, at the time that I first lived here, had a permanent population of 800 people. I read one year that during Wakestock (a now extinct festival), the population rose to 20,000. That is insane! Then you have all the sailing races that the rich folk like to be there for, and all the other events that are now catering to the business of the season.
    So when it’s done, and school kicks in and everyone goes home, the villages are like ghost towns. It’s amazing.
    You can find parking. People aren’t getting in your way because–let’s face it–people in herds get dumb. People are there to relax opposed to spend money, so they’re more likely to be friendly and take the time to be polite. It’s just nice, relaxing, and quiet.
    img_3620
  2. The Weather
    img_3623I have so many locals disagree with me on this one, but I swear it’s true–the weather is better when there’s no tourists. I’m not saying the tourists drive the weather to rain, because I’ve totally been here during the summer months, as a tourist, and had beautiful weather. No, what I’m saying is that the best weather months are May and September through October. All the rest of the months are just rain, kind of bleh, for the most part. There are the odd nice days, or partially cloudy days, but not nice nice. Or if they are, they’re too hot (for my liking at least).
    But the reason why the autumn nice weather is better than the May nice weather is because it’s relaxing weather. Coupled with the calm after the storm, the sun and the mild warmth is pleasant. It seems to seep into the bones more. You want to be in it, but you want to relax in it. In May, you’re so energized of breaking through the lethargy of the winter that there’s too much to do, to much want to do any of it. But after the summer, the warmth soaks into you with a slight breeze that carries my next point…
  3. The Leaves
    img_3558I know, I know, it’s everyone’s favorite part of autumn. But it truly is worth noting. After the trees have been lapping up the delicious summer rain, they’re drying up and ready to change and shed their leaves, and they just smell divine.
    I come from a place that looks like it’s been carved out of the trees. I’m not a stranger to masses of trees and their leaves changing. And I love it. There is a heavy dose of ecstasy when I watch the swirls of leaves across the road.
    But there’s something different when the leaves are coming from the Welsh Snowdonia mountains. I spend a lot of time in the slate-mine village of Blaenau-Ffestiniog, and so I drive and walk through the woods quite a bit. And I cannot tell you how much joy those leaves bring me.
    The tips of the leaves are singing to orange and yellow, and they are just so eager to act as a veil to my destination. Combine that with the rolling quilt of the farmlands that look like they’re lumpy with kittens–it is something breathtaking.
  4. Mushroom Hunting
    As a budding mushroom hunter, I cannot get over how many varieties of fungus there is around here. Don’t get me wrong, I’m spoiled rotten for the fungus amung us in the Pacific NorthWest, but here is just as lush with specimens. When I was growing up, in August, Granny and I would always pick field mushrooms just outside her house. I could see the fairy rings they grew in from the windows, and loved to just marvel at them. Now, as an adult, I’m on the hunt for culinary purposes, and just general curiosity. I have a fascination with them, and there are a plethora all over the Snowdonia National Park.

Until you experience it, you won’t know the difference between a Welsh autumn and that of one in Scotland, The Pacific Northwest, or Germany. And in all honesty, I’ve only experienced one of the three I just mentioned. But if you have the chance to spend a month and a half in Wales, make it the last half of August through to October. It’s worth it, I promise.

Happy Equinox, dear reader.

What is your favorite seasonal experience? Is there any location that you find to be unique with its seasons? I want to know! Let me know in the comments!

Hunting Medication

So, for the last few days to a week, I’ve been singing the praises of the NHS. I’ve been able to go to the Minor Injury unit in Pwllheli, the Out of Hours in Tremedog, and A and E in Bangor Hospital, all the while procuring three wrist braces and a box of medication–without charge. Hurrah for the NHS!

When I was in Bangor, the nurse practitioner had me double my dose of anti-inflamatories that I’d been given, and told to see my GP about refilling for another week. Fair enough.

By Thursday, I only had a couple of days worth of medication left, so I called Botwnog to get an appointment, telling the exactly what the nurse practitioner told me to tell them–that I needed to make an appointment with a GP to get a refilled perscription, and that my informtion sould be in the system.

I tried to make an appointment, but the person I spoke to said that they had nothing for the day–because it’s a call in the morning to make an appointment if you want to get seen any time before three weeks sort of deal. Ridiculous.

So, since we were going to Bangor any way, we stopped off at the hospital to find out what we could about how to go about this if I couldn’t get in to see a doctor. I went in to the Out of Hours clinic, which apparently you have to go to another section of A and E for, got shouted at by the woman behind the desk for asking the emergency services these questions (despite it clearly saying it was the Out of Hours clinic, mind–how was I to know??), and turned away. Though, she did give me a number to call, though no one answered.

Yesterday morning I tried my luck again with Botwnnog, calling at 8 in the morning for an appointment. I was on hold for half an hour before I got through, and the nurse wouldn’t let me make an appointment with a doctor because she didn’t have a file on me. I tried to tell her it was in the overall system, that I watched the nurse practitioner at the hospital put it in there, but she wouldn’t listen. I tried to reason with her, asking for an appointment so that I could show the doctor my wrist and then he would prescribe it to me any way. She said unless she had my notes then I couldn’t see anyone. When I tried again, she told me she’s very busy and there’s nothing she can do.

I was able to get ahold of the Out of Hours nurse in Tremadog who faxed my notes along to Botwnnog, though it wasn’t the complete set of notes since they didn’t have them from Bangor (some system). However, she told me to call Botwnnog later to make sure they were there.

A few hours later I did so, and didn’t have to wait very long on hold. I spoke to a very kind, and helpful person who apologised that there weren’t the full notes. In Bangor they doubled the dose I was given in Tremadog, which was information written that the lady on the phone didn’t have. However, she listened, said she would pass it along to a doctor and that it should be in the pharmacy today–and it was.

So that crisis is averted.

But I understand now why so many people complain about the NHS. This, I think, was the result of it. Botwnnog is bursting and busy because the surgery in the village I live in shut down, and who knows how many others. The system that is suppose to work all over doesn’t.

It doesn’t excuse the excessive rudeness I experienced (aside from the last person I spoke to), but I think the rudeness is a symptom.

However, all healthcare systems have their flaws. This is by far infinitely better than what’s provided in the States. And, bonus: When I picked up my prescription today, not only did they give me twice the amount needed, but I didn’t have to pay anything for it.

An injury like this at home would have drained my savings by now and put me in debt. The NHS is flawed, but man, I sure am grateful for it.

Writing Horror to Music (and other playlists)

I’ve never once wanted to go as deep into my characters’ brains as to know what kind of music they would listen to. However, as I go through this last pass of my current work in progress, I am finding that I have to write a few extra chapters, and it’s forcing me to delve into what it is that they would be listening to.

While I’m still compiling playlist on YouTube to help me, I’m actually, as I edit, falling back onto something I was listening to more during the winter, and I think maybe in the fall? But it’s an hour of ambient haunting music–and I just love it. It’s subtle, it’s quiet, it blocks out the background noise of wherever I am, and it puts me in a fantastic writing mood.

The only problem is that it puts me in the mood for writing horror–which is fine, that’s not to say at all that I don’t write horror. But i’ts just a little too over the edge for what I’m writing now. As a result, my characters are slowly getting creepier.

However, I actually just wanted to share this track, because I just think it’s so great.

Haunting Music – 3 Hours 
Haunting Music ~ inspiring, motivating music for reading, writing, drawing, painting and art
Posted by White Noise  Relaxation

It should also be noted that White Noise Relaxation also posts happy music for studying, chill out lounge, morning bossa nova, ukulele, Christmas music for children, and so on. I make mention of this so that you know that this particular YouTuber is quite eclectic, and if you don’t need horror-type music, then you can still find something that might suit your needs.

 

I would love to know what music you write/study to. What genre do you write? What topics are you studying? Do you do something else with certain types of music?

A Tribute to the Story Grid Podcast

I listen to a lot of podcasts. I do a lot of driving, and I do a lot of things that involve my hands, but not my mind. I constantly like to learn and gain information. So listening to podcasts really is perfect for me.

I generally like to listen to the news, especially news regarding the States since I’m abroad, I like to listen to science stuff, interesting little nuggest of discoveries, but really, I like listening to writing podcasts.

I think I’ve been listening to the Story Grid Podcast for about a year now. I’m not really sure when I started listening to it. The premise of it is Tim Grahl who is learning to write a novel based on Shawn Coyne‘s method of the Story Grid. This podcast has followed Tim from the planning stages through maneuvering through his first draft. Each episode is basically a conversation between Tim and Shawn, where Tim asks him questions about his novel and Shawn, an editor with decades of experience under his belt, answers and guides and trains him.

I generally skip episodes, but that’s fine. Mostly because I have a lot of things I want to listen to and so I just look for episodes that look like they might pertain to me in the moment. However, the nice thing is that I can still catch on to what they’re talking about without having to go back. There are a few times that it references other episodes, but rarely do I need to go back to them to know just what they’re talking about.

However, I just want to say what brilliance this podcast is. There are a few reasons that I recommend it:

  • Insight into the publishing/editor side of writing
  • How to shape your drafts and editing
  • Creative Marketing
  • Creating better Readers

I’m about to go into university to study English so that I can be a publisher/editor. This shows me what it means to be just that, and man it gets me revved up! This is actually what hooked me on the podcast.

But for those who are writers or even just avid readers, this is a brilliant podcast to listen to. It walks you through the ins and outs of the hero’s journey, and why you want to make sure you use it. It compares it to pop culture for points of reference. And really does go into depth for all those little rules that you read about that writers have to follow but with little explanation.

What’s more, Shawn is the author of the book The Story Grid, and really, this podcast is all about selling and promoting his book, which is really why I think this is brilliant. It’s a very informative and in-depth marketing scheme. He’s showing how affective his method is, he’s advertising himself as a skilled editor, and he’s selling his book. The brilliance, in my mind, goes on to Tim.

Tim Grahl is not new to the publishing world. In fact, he runs a company which is all about helping writers to sell their first thousand books on http://www.BookLaunch.com. All the while he’s learning how to write a book that’s going to sell, he’s already selling the book that hasn’t even made it to it’s phase two of revision.

The whole podcast is selling both The Story Grid and this soon-to-be young adult novel. The promotion of both has been going on for well over a year. It’s fantastic, really. You know how I know it’s fantastic?

I hate young adult novels.

I know, hate is a strong word. But generally, to me, they’re an easy way to sell books that don’t have much depth, and they’re just not interesting to me. I’m not into coming-of-age stories. I did that myself. I lived it. I don’t need to live it again through angsty teenagers.

But! I actually want to read this book that Tim is writing. I’m now fascinated by it, and I already know that once it’s published (and with the following already behind it, publishers would be stupid to refuse it, if he doesn’t already have a contract for it) I’ll probably have my name down to buy it.

But that’s what’s being demanded of writers in the publishing world now. You have to have a following, you have to be able to show that you have people willing to read your work before you even send off your first manuscript. It’s stupid. Publishing has become a popularity contest, or so I hear.

However, while annoying and superficial and demeaning to the art as it is, it does provide an opportunity. That opportunity is marketing creativity. It is getting your name out there in your own creative way so that you can get followers ahead of time. And I think podcasting is a fantastic way of doing it.

I mentioned earlier that this podcast was good for becoming a better reader. I”m currently reading a book that I’m struggling with. If I hadn’t already said I’d write a review on it, I would have already put it down. However, I was listening to an episode the other day, and I realized that what they were saying about character arc and story development could be applied to how I was reading this. I began looking at the book differently, and noting these elements that I just didn’t see before. While I was struggling to figure out not only how I was going to get through the book, but what I was going to even write about it because I just felt like there was nothing there, I now can see points that I can specifically talk about from a deeper perspective.

Any way, give it a go. There’s three reasons for you.

Laying to Rest

When I moved to Wales this last time, it was rather tumultuous. While I’m really grateful to those who helped me, it was still quite difficult. A massive part of the difficulty was when my grandmother died. For those of you who don’t know, she was very much a passive part of my motivation to apply to university in the UK. I wanted to be near her in her final years.

Well, she passed last November, only slightly over a month from my arrival. And yesterday, we laid her to rest.

She was of course cremated in November, with the family there  to say their words and spend time remembering her. But yesterday we scattered her ashes. It was really a fantastic day for it. The sun was shining, the sky was clear, and the bay was calmly excited.

There weren’t very many of us, and looking back on it, I’m quite glad for it. There was a close friend of the family who was kind enough to take us out into the bay on his sail boat, my mom, and me. There was Prosecco and wine and sun waves and islands.

We took the boat out along the usual race course, for “Mrs. T’s final race,” as friend put it. We made it around the buoy, something that I, myself, haven’t done in at least twenty years. As we came up alongside the island, under the watchful eye of the abandoned cabin, we sprinkled Granny in the sea.

I suppose this is the part where I reflect, but in all honesty, I don’t know what to say. I can say that she’s the closest person to me to have passed on, and that it’s a loss I regularly feel at random times. I feel it when I’m driving to Blaenau-Ffestiniog, somewhere I don’t think I went with her. I feel it when I’m making instant noodles. I feel it when I smell the plants after it’s rained.

And while those times I feel sad, and that I’m missing something now, I know I’m not. I know that I’ve had the chance to experience a really wonderful person, and that every time I miss her, I am breathing life into who she was, and I know that she still has a presence.

I suppose that would be my reflection on the matter. As for yesterday, it was an experience, but not something emotional. It was a beautiful day on a boat.

A Sample Chapter of My Novel

Brooke's Return, the Usual, N. J. ThompsonA few years ago, I participated in NaNoWriMo (2014), and was successful. That is to say, I was able to write the full 50,000 words in the 30 day time period.

Three years later, I’m still working on it. As time has gone by, I’ve been editing it, slowly, or perhaps swiftly, but still unable to figure out just what is wrong with it. Well, I’ve finally figure it out and am working on remedying it. However, I wanted to share a chapter of it. This is from the middle of the novel, but a piece I think could potentially act as a stand-alone. As a result, I used it as a bit of a cheat for my weekly flash fiction that I post on my website.

But really, what I’m hoping for is some constructive feedback. So, give it a read, let me know what you think–keeping in mind it is the middle of the story, so more than likely there will be questions answered elsewhere.

Without further adue:

Brooke’s Return