Friday, March 18, 2011

How to Deal With Cultural Differences in Manuscripts

As an Australian about to submit a novel to and Smashwords, and in the context of a fantasy, sci-fi realm that does not necessarily match any particular country or culture, deciding how to deal with language, idiom, spelling and other complexities of culture is not a trivial thing.

Now it's generally recognised that JK Rowling made an error, or at least was not in a position to make judgement about Scholastic changing the name of The Philosopher's Stone to The Sorcerer's Stone in the US to placate US readers. They made quite a few changes to cultural references in the text as well.

I asked successful Australian author, Vicki Tyley, and she was able to provide me with a few pointers. Okay, if you are writing about Australia and the setting is Australia or the UK or Europe for that matter, you would be mad to change too much because readers often expect the entertainment of exploring different cultures and ways of living. Changing spelling between UK and US English is pretty much a toss up in my view, unless some really obscure reference needs description.

In my case, the cultural reference point is more or less neutral, so I'm still considering the best way to go. I don't think I'll change too much.


  1. I say stick too it, don't change too much. I think its a good idea to assume a smart readership; that they'll be able to find the answer to questions they have about culture in your book. Best of luck!

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  2. Thanks Sarah. Yes, those cross-cultural fixes can play to a certain audience, but in the long run, work against you I think, especially in series where readers can easily get used to different expressions.