Friday, June 13, 2014

Using Dialect Properly

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I've been a bit busy with the end of the school year and band events. I probably won't be posting too much over the summer either because I'll be gone or busy with band events. Anyway, time to actually post.

Dialect is something I've always struggled to use well. You want to make sure you're making it clear where your characters are from, but in doing this, you can easily cross the line into overuse. Reading a book where every other word was "yer" or "yar" or "ahnt." (I found these examples from The Dialect Dictionary.)

So the problem is, when is it too much? And honestly, I don't have a definitive answer for this. Personally, I think if you have one or two characters who always say a certain word in a distinct dialect, that's okay, but if they pronounce twenty-eight common words differently than the norm, that might be a stretch. One other way to keep from overusing dialect in your dialogue is to mention the dialect in some type of tag or prose surrounding the speech, such as "'What's up?' A deep southern accent was obvious in his voice."

Another problem that can arise with dialect happens when you write a story set in a place or area you've never been to. (That is, if you're writing in the real world; this applies less with other-world fantasy and science fiction.)

If you don't know how they'd say something in northeast Connecticut and you're trying to say that thing, the easiest way out is to just use the lingo that you would use. And in a first draft, that's okay. But once you get into the editing process, you should probably start to work on using correct dialect.

Some resources for finding how certain things are said in different areas are The Dialect Dictionary, these dialect maps that show the answers to certain dialect-related questions in different areas with percentages, and by going on Google and searching the word or phrase and the general area.

Also, just for fun, here's a dialect quiz (which you could use on your characters if you wanted to) that tries to find  out where your from based off of your answers to a series of dialect-related questions paired with the same survey results used to make the dialect maps I talked about above.

Do you like to use dialect in your stories? How do you keep from overusing it? Let me know in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. Hey! I nominated you and your beautiful blog for the Leibester Awards. :) Here's my link.