UK English or US English when submitting a Query Letter?

by Rhonda

Question: If a manuscript has been written in English (UK), yet the author is submitting a query letter to the USA, should both letter and future submissions of the manuscript be written in English (US) or be kept in the original print.

Is it polite to use English (US) even though I write in English (UK)?

Thank you,

Answer: As a Canadian, I can relate to your dilemma. Canada has historically been in continuous flux over spelling.

As a former British colony, formal English in Canada usually prefers UK spellings (such as "honour" and "theatre". On the other hand, we have adopted many US spellings (e.g. "airplane" rather than "aeroplane"). The US influence is so strong, since we get many books and magazines imported from the US, that British spellings are in danger of dying out in Canada. (In fact, many Canadians now pronounce the last letter of the alphabet as "zee" rather than "zed" and use "clik" rather than "clique," which grates on my teeth. But I digress.) On top of that, we have a few homegrown Canadian-isms as well.

I'm sure a similar situation exists in Australia.

In a query letter, I wouldn't want to give the reader any reason to doubt your command of the English language -- according to their understanding of what standard English is in their country.

If you're hoping to publish with a British publisher, then obviously they will expect British spelling. US publishers will expect US spelling. I would imagine Australia has it's own standard style guide or dictionary which you would follow for Australian publishers.

Even if you normally write in UK English, a US publisher will insist on changing the spelling in the book to be suitable for an American readership. Even J.K. Rowling had to change many British words and spellings for the US editions of Harry Potter. "Jumper," for example, became "sweater" because the word means something quite different to Americans than it does to Brits. (Although, she had enough clout to insist that Mrs. Weasley was a "Mum," not a "Mom.")

If you are querying a number of publishers or agents, you should always tailor your letter to the recipient. Don't make it look like a standard, generic letter. Even though it would take an extreme (if not foolish) amount of confidence not to do multiple, simultaneous submissions, each agent or editor likes to bask in the illusion that you only have eyes for him/her alone. So you should adjust the spelling and other elements.

Best of luck.

Comments for UK English or US English when submitting a Query Letter?

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Jan 08, 2015
Thank you
by: Rhonda

Thank you so much for your reply. I must look at the rest of your site in more detail. So much to learn.
Kindest Regards,

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