META: Dialect or Not?

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at
Wed May 12 18:40:58 PDT 2010

In article <5b243a22-8f9b-49a9-a537-072e9f1360fb at>,
Scott Eiler  <seiler at> wrote:
>I'm keeping myself amused this month by writing four Superhuman World
>2010 stories at the same time.  In one of these stories, the narrator
>is a redneck.  He'll be writing commentary for the World Journal
>Monthly, the world's leading tabloid paper, which finds a lot of real
>news that other sources miss somehow.  The World Journal Monthly can
>afford a "ghost writer" to clean up his language, but should it?  Or
>should it leave that "dialect" flavor?
>Sample dialect:  "They swiped us, don't'cha know.  People been tellin'
>you that for years."

     Unless he's dictating, most of the dialect will be toned down.  While
word usage will certainly follow a person's dialect in written English,
people almost never transliterate the accents unless they're consciously
trying to reproduce them.  Especially people who aren't particularly
comfortable with writing, who will tend to fall back on the sort of style
they were taught in grade school.
     As a first pass, you can try writing a transliterated dialect and then
clean it up.  For instance, your sample might end up as, "They swiped us,
don't you know.  People been telling you that for years."  Spelling will tend
to be correct (although a few errors here and there will lend versimilitude),
but grammar and phrasing will follow the dialectual use.  In reality it's a
little more complicated than that, and different people will have different
written foibles (I knew a girl in grade school who would write "ya" instead
of "you" for instance), it rarely matches Twain-like transliterations.

     Dave Van Domelen, often struggles with trying to maintain a consistent
transliterated accent for certain characters, but a lot of 'em end up looking
like Noo Yawkas.

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