About Me

My photo
United Kingdom
I've been creative writing all my life, though with various haitus(es) along the way. IFrom 2010 I started this blog and enjoyed sharing writing and other information with everyone. illness and bereavement supplied the more recent hiatus.

Friday, 1 April 2011

A: Accents

A:  Do your characters spook in stroonge ACCENTS?

Giving your characters accents provides another dimension to your novel, but needs to be done without confusing your readers.

Using accents and dialects can create a richer flavour of how the characters speak without overwhelming the reader:

An accent is the manner of pronunciation peculiar to a particular individual, location, or nation. It can identify the geographical or regional locality in which the speaker resides, as well as their socio-economic status ethnicity, caste or social class.
So when you recreate accents in your own work it is important to maintain a common reference so that your reader can get a flavour of the speech patterns without losing their understanding of what they are reading.

Dialect involves the differences in vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation.

To understand what someone is saying to you there must be a shared knowledge, because it is the grammar that enables speakers to talk to and understand one another's dialects.Here's how dialect can be inserted subtly to give a good flavour of how the characters talk.


Nope I've not put dialects or accents in my writing, yet.

Have you considered using accents and dialect in your WIP?

Have you any favourite novels  that use accents/dialects well?


  1. Hi,

    Yes, a bit of dialect, particularly in historicals: servants,and the odd hint within the gentry! ;)


  2. i find it most impressive when writers can get an accent across just by the word choice and order they use. Cormac McCarthy is especially good at that.

    Moody Writing Blog

  3. I prefer to use vocabulary and structures to get a dialect across, rather than phonetic spelling, although small bits of it (like Patrick Ness) can work really well.

    Also, as an Irish writer I try to play down local accents in my writing - we've been tarred with the Oirish brush long enough, begod, we have surely :p

  4. Hi Madeleine .. this will be so interesting to read about .. accents .. not being a mimic - I struggle with this sort of thing .. sometimes it comes out - but usually I squirm into hopelessness!

    Love the way you've set this out .. easy to refer back to (I shall be!) .. great read - thanks Hilary

  5. I agree that judicious use of accent / dialect can help characterisation, and remind the reader who is speaking, without tagging. I have come across some examples, though, that read like a completely different language, and can baffle, rather than help the reader. A bit like reading Chaucer, in the original old English - although I guess we can forgive him for that :-)
    All best

  6. I love dialects in books, my favorite (that i can think of) is the Secret Garden! it just pops into my head with that fantastic Yorkshire twang of Martha and Dickon. Awesome stuff.

    I have to try and do this in my current book, just a little, and it sure is hard.

    great post


  7. I live in Yorkshire, and I love the James Herriot books, but I think a lot of the dialects here are dying, like a lot of areas in the country, you just don't hear the richness of the accent anymore.
    Thanks for visiting and following :-)

  8. Francine, yes historicals are great for accents and dialects to distinguish classes.

    Ellen, I love the Oirish accent you have there.
    Cormac McCarthy, now I've heard someone else recommend him.

    Oh yes, I loved Chaucer once I knew how to translate it.

    Sarah- now I shall have to read The Secret Garden.

    Eliza - Yes the same is true here in Devon accents are being adulterated by travel and the media I reckon. I kmew an 80 yr old Devonian whose accent was much richer than my 30yr old Devonian friend both of whom had lived in the area all their lives.:O)

  9. Awesome post! As long as a writer doesn't overdo it, changes in speech or dialect can work.

  10. *gasps* you havn't read the secret garden!!!

    Shame on you...


    great kids book, or read, goodnight Mr. Tom.


  11. LOL! Well when you've seen it on TV like Goodnight Mr Tom you think you've read it already! :O)

  12. Hi Madeleine ... can you put a note here - re changing the black background .. noticed it yesterday and forgot to note it down .. Ctrl & ? - many thanks! Cheers H

  13. Hi Hilary, Appropriately for today it's control A to make the screen go white and the writing blue :O)

  14. I don't like when authors heavily alter a character's way of speech so that it's difficult to read. Like trying to convey the accent by changing spellings and using truncating words and using lots of apostrophes.

    Characters in my novel do not really have any accents. They may use some local phrases or structure their speaking slightly, but I try to keep it very minimal.

  15. Wonderful A for accents!! And great snippets too!!!

    Dickens was great at capturing accents!! Take care

  16. Yep, I love using accents/dialects but you've got to be careful you get it right.


  17. Flannery O'Connor was great at using dialect and then throwing in just a word here or there to hint at accent. Like, "I wouldn't of lost it. I'd 'a' kepaholt of it."

    Terry Pratchett is also great at that. It takes a little getting used to, but you come to understand that, when a character says, "I fort you ated it, style of fing," he's saying, "I thought you hated it, style of thing," meaning, "I thought you hated it or something like that."

    Accent and dialect is like being tickled--a little goes a long way.

    Marian Allen
    Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

  18. I've used dialect but no accents.
    Awesome post as always.


  19. Howdy!

    Starting a new feature at my blog called The MicroFiction Muse! Please pop in and take a look and hope to see you next week! :O)


  20. I haven't used accents or dialects in my writing. It's tricky to do! Sometimes they can be distracting to the reader.

    I think the way Hagrid speaks in the Harry Potter series and the dialects in "Gone with the Wind" are two well-written examples.

  21. I don't care for accents. They're kinda bothersome I think. I do use phrases one might say from a particular region, but I leave the accents out of my books.

  22. This is a good topic. I haven't had any accents to write about. That may be a skill I don't posses.

  23. Great post! I love your blog! I've given you an award!! You can pick it up from my blog: http://www.margokelly.blogspot.com

  24. I use vocabulary as my highlight. I find accents distracting when I am reading, so I tend to stay away from them. Great points made here.

  25. I do use them. I try not to overdo it though. I just want to give a little flavor here and they when someone speaks as a reminder they have an accent.

    A-Z Fellow Challenger
    Holly Ruggiero’sPOV

  26. Yes, I do touch on accents and dialect in my book but I love Marian Allen's comment above - a little goes a long way, and that is what I have tried to do with my story. :)

    Great starting topic!

  27. I've never tried using accents--although some of my characters so use slang words here and there.

  28. I'm more of a reader of accents than a writer - I can barely cope with dialog. But, I always 'try' the accents out loud when I'm reading. Not all sound convincing. It must be very hard to get it right.

  29. Great use of the letter A today! (Fellow A-Z blogger)

  30. Sparing use of accents really lends that extra layer of color. So I enjoy it when it's there. But not so much of it that it overwhelms the dialogue.

    A Piece of My Mind

  31. I've tried putting dialects in my writing. But I always ended up irritated that it doesn't turn out how I want. I suppose you could just write straight talking characters.

  32. Yes, my fantasy series will have several characters with accents. In book one the French Ballet instructor and in book two the same character and her family will speak with accents. Book three will be a South American accent. Not sure from what country yet. As for book four, not sure where the mc is coming from yet, but he most likely will have an accent.

  33. Nice A-Z start! Regarding accents, I've read that the key (and really tough part) is keeping it consistent. That said, I do use accents occasionally, but I don't step too far out on a limb. :)

  34. I tried giving one character a flavoring of an accent but couldn't pull it off. I settled for a few words of dialect.

  35. I guess I never gave it any thought but now that you mention it this is an awesome idea!

  36. Oh, I love Wuthering Heights and all the accents that go with it.

  37. I'm not sure. It has to be so finely crafted so as not to lose the reader.....but I did love your examples!

  38. I used to employ accent and dialect more often than I do now; guess I don't want to distract the reader too much.

  39. OOh I like the sound of the French ballet instructor's accent Michael and I'm sure the South American will also be a challenge!
    How exciting ! :O)

  40. Yes, I love using accents in my writing, but I only do it if I can do it well. One thing that has helped me is acting. I choose characters with accents, so that I can research and master them. I've done Cockney, Swedish, Southern, Slovakian, and Jamaican! Accents are so fun!

  41. I don't write accents phonetically but I've read others who do a great job with it.


Comments with heart are worth their weight in gold. Thank you.
NB: Comments based on others comments can lead to misunderstandings.
COMMENTS now enabled and MAY BE MODERATED so may TAKE TIME TO APPEAR, Thank you.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.