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Share-It Saturday: 5 Tips for Using Dialects in Writing

Reblogged from MasterClass.com

How to Write Character Accents: 5 Tips for Using Dialects in Writing

Written by the MasterClass staff

What do Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series have in common? They both feature memorable use of character accents and regional dialects. Though writing accents can help make your character’s voice distinct and memorable, there are certain pitfalls to avoid when rendering specific speech patterns.

5 Tips for Writing Character Accents

Accents give us information about where a character is from, and the use of distinct speech patterns can give your story a rich texture and flavor. Here are some tips to consider when giving your characters accents:

  1. Make sure your character’s speech isn’t distracting. When writing dialect or a particular accent, it can be tempting to write a character’s dialogue using phonetic spellings. However, this use of dialect can distract your reader. If your character is French and is constantly saying “ze” instead of “the,” the reader will be focusing more on decoding the line of dialogue than they will on plot or character development. When writing fiction, your reader’s attention should always be on the story, and anything that distracts from that probably isn’t worth including.
  2. Research slang and colloquialisms. Each region of the world has its own standard pronunciation, sentence structure, and slang. If your main character has an Australian, Jamaican, Spanish, or Scottish accent, their word choice will likely be different than if they grew up speaking American English. Research commonly used foreign words, slang phrases, and colloquialisms from your character’s part of the world. Listen to podcasts that feature speakers from your desired region. Be as specific as possible: If your character is from New York, their word choice might be different depending on if they’re from the Bronx or Staten Island.


Read the full list on MasterClass.com

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