In today’s article, we’ve provided you with 12 tips to help Americanize your dialogue.
Nothing creates a disharmonious chord in your book faster than characters who are purported to be from one place speaking and thinking as though they are from another. American characters who sound British or Australian stand out in a bad way. Use these tips to add authentic flavor to your characters.
#1 Roll not into your contractions. E.g. I haven’t seen him. (But not always. Depending on the region, she is not here could be rendered: She’s not here or she isn’t here.)
#2 Use contractions, mash-ups, and truncated words liberally. E.g. Donna’s wondering where you are. How’ve you been? What’cha doing? C’mon! Hey, y’all! Where ya goin?
#3 Use did instead of had whenever possible. E.g. I didn’t think of that. (Not: I hadn’t thought of that.)
#4 Reduce the number of questions in your dialogue. Americans just state things directly and assume everyone agrees with them. E.g. We’re going to the store. (Not: We’re going to the store, correct?)
#5 Differentiate between restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses. Americans do not replace that with which in everyday speech.
#6 Use articles (a, an, the). E.g. She’s in the hospital for a week.
#7 Use progressive tenses featuring am and was instead of had been and have been. E.g. I was thinking about going to the store. (Not: I’ve been thinking about going to the store.)
#8 Use hey and hi instead of hello; night and g’night instead of good night; bye instead of good-bye; and yeah instead of yes.
#9 Americans tend to interrupt subjects and predicates with adverbs in everyday speech. E.g. I really need to know what is going on here.
#10 Americans are very direct in their speech patterns. Don’t use words that can be considered passive or weak: could, maybe, perhaps, may, might, etc.
#11 Use all right, OK, and right to request agreement instead of correct, yes, no. E.g. Let’s stop at the Italian restaurant, OK? She’s beautiful, right? (Not: Let’s stop at the Italian restaurant, yes? She’s beautiful, no?) All right and OK are also used to acquiesce, to change the focus of a conversation, and to cool down a tense situation. E.g. All right, everyone, enough on that topic. OK, OK, calm down, guys.
#12 Use correct terminology and vernacular. For instance: teapot instead of kettle; john or bathroom instead of loo; cookie instead of biscuit; trunk instead of boot; truck instead of lorry; She was standing by the door instead of she was stood by the door.
We hope that you find these tips helpful.
Talk back to the Divas. What do you do to add that authentic American feel to your character’s dialogue?