A recent review of my historical romance collection, Warriors and Wenches, had a slight problem with one of the stories because of the language (ie. historical Scots). My US publishers were keen on the story but suggested perhaps a glossary of some of the words might be helpful. Which seemed perfectly fair to me. So I put one in. The reviewer, Tara Fox Hall, had this reservation, and I quote: “The glossary was helpful, but it made this story hard to read, as I had to keep going back to the beginning anytime I came to a word I couldn’t guess the meaning of. I’d recommend for future works to just include the words that could be understood and leave out the rest.”
I can’t think of a single instance of a British reviewer covering, for example, a rural American novel with local dialect having the same issue. Indeed, I enjoy linguistic difference, and if I have to look a word up, or glean what it means from the context, what’s wrong with that?
I know of a fellow Scottish crime writer whose American publisher insisted on US spellings in her books. I can only suppose the publisher believes American citizens are incapable of understanding British spelling. In which case, why has no one redrafted Dickens, or Shakespeare so it can be understood by our chums across the Atlantic?
It’s an issue that puzzles me. And I sometimes wonder if the US reading public actually feels that linguistic difference is a problem – or is that just an assumption by US publishers? As for Tara’s review, well, she enjoyed the story in the end. But I won’t be leaving out words that matter to any of my tales.
I’d love some views on this topic.