Will specific English terms be an issue when submitting to US agents?

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owlion

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(I wasn't completely sure where to post this, so sorry if it's in the wrong place.)

I've been thinking about submitting a manuscript to US agents, but I've used terms like 'GCSEs' (the final exams you take at secondary school in the UK) and I wondered if this would be a problem. It's made clear in the context of the story that these are final exams, but I can't call them 'finals' as that's not really a term used here outside of university, as far as I know. They're only mentioned a couple of times near the beginning, but I thought it might be off-putting.
Any input would be greatly appreciated!
 

Cephus

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They shouldn't be but I would be up front in the query that you are a UK author regardless. Agents know that authors have a wide variety of experiences and backgrounds and there are going to be changes to a manuscript before it hits publication regardless. So long as the agent thinks they can sell it to a publisher, all of that is up to the marketing department at the end.
 
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Maryn

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Assuming it's set in the UK, I don't think it's a problem to submit to US agents. I have read more than one so-bad-it's-funny book by a UK writer who attempted to Americanize a novel and failed.

As a US reader who's been mystified by UK terms in a great many novels, you do need to take care to explain or elaborate all terms unique to the UK in a way that's both informative and invisible--and probably would do well to have an American reader help you identify them all.

Maryn, who got stuck on a male minister who offered to be the mother while serving tea
 

AstronautMikeDexter

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One of my favorite authors, Alexis Hall, is from England and has a US agent as far as I'm aware. All his books take place within the UK, for the most part, so there are definitely terms that are UK-specific. He's mentioned before that some of the regional terms he's used are flagged during editing, if at all. So, I don't think you'd have trouble having those terms in a novel when searching for an agent, though this is anecdotal!
 
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owlion

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Thanks very much for the replies! I'm glad it doesn't seem like it'll be a big issue, at least. I'll ask a couple of American friends if they'll read over the first couple of chapters to make sure it's clear.
 

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If I read a novel set in the UK I would expect UK names and words to be used. I can deal with context explaining it.


Note* Occasionally in my critique group a member or two will want to know what every animal or plant is with this comment, "I don't know what this [insert animal/plant name] is." The story takes place on another planet! Drives me to annoyance.
 

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Another planet? Beyond annoyance, but my essential self :cautious: is a tad grouchier than you :) seem to be.

It helps for the author to remember his or her readers are not stupid. Context explains lots of things quite well. Simon can load the back of a lorry with cardboard boxes holding his worldly possessions, fretting about rain, without the author intruding to tell us a lorry is a truck.

Maryn, swift with stupid examples
 

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Will you be changing the spelling and punctuation? I notice that UK and Canadian authors who are sold in the US don't usually change local references or vocabulary, but they do have all the occasional spelling change and all quotation marks changed around to conform to the US style.
 
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MaeZe

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Will you be changing the spelling and punctuation? I notice that UK and Canadian authors who are sold in the US don't usually change local references or vocabulary, but they do have all the occasional spelling change and all quotation marks changed around to conform to the US style.
I'm pretty neutral reading words with extra 'u's or 'c's where 'k's belong. It did take me more time on the k>c thing, sceptic used to always looks like septic to me not skeptic. But I think it's like 'said' to the reader, one usually reads right past it.

But I'd go with what the editor said and maybe put US spellings in the query at least. Same with punctuation.
 
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Carrie

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I'm pretty neutral reading words with extra 'u's or 'c's where 'k's belong. It did take me more time on the k>c thing, sceptic used to always looks like septic to me not skeptic. But I think it's like 'said' to the reader, one usually reads right past it.

But I'd go with what the editor said and maybe put US spellings in the query at least. Same with punctuation.
Quotation marks, in particular, are very distracting with the single replacing the double, and vice versa, and the commas and periods dangling outside, all unprotected! (Truthfully, I prefer the British method, but it is what it is.)
 
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waylander

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I have UK set contemporary fantasy published by a US publisher. Their copy editor changed all the English spellings to US spelling and I had to go through and change them all back.
 
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owlion

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If I read a novel set in the UK I would expect UK names and words to be used. I can deal with context explaining it.


Note* Occasionally in my critique group a member or two will want to know what every animal or plant is with this comment, "I don't know what this [insert animal/plant name] is." The story takes place on another planet! Drives me to annoyance.
Thanks for the input! It's set in a fictional UK town, but generally clear it's in the UK.

I'm surprised anyone would give that kind of feedback when the story's set on another planet :unsure:

Will you be changing the spelling and punctuation? I notice that UK and Canadian authors who are sold in the US don't usually change local references or vocabulary, but they do have all the occasional spelling change and all quotation marks changed around to conform to the US style.
I don't think so. I've generally heard if books are published in the US, the spelling/punctuation are changed at that point.

I have UK set contemporary fantasy published by a US publisher. Their copy editor changed all the English spellings to US spelling and I had ot go through and change them all back.
Thanks for the input - that lines up with what I've heard generally.
 

KingM

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If an agent doesn't know UK terms, or is so confused about them that it puts them off the query, then I'd say they're not the right agent for you anyway. You're probably looking for an Anglophile, or at least someone sufficiently open to something outside their comfort zone.
 
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(I wasn't completely sure where to post this, so sorry if it's in the wrong place.)

I've been thinking about submitting a manuscript to US agents, but I've used terms like 'GCSEs' (the final exams you take at secondary school in the UK) and I wondered if this would be a problem. It's made clear in the context of the story that these are final exams, but I can't call them 'finals' as that's not really a term used here outside of university, as far as I know. They're only mentioned a couple of times near the beginning, but I thought it might be off-putting.
Any input would be greatly appreciated!
I reckon it's fine, as long as the story is set in the UK and not the US, and as long as the term is at least vaguely understandable by context. Heck, my partner's NY publisher didn't blink at 'down-trou' ;)
 

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Maryn, who got stuck on a male minister who offered to be the mother while serving tea

:ROFLMAO:

I've read a lot of British novels over the year as well as having a number of friends (and one ex) who are British, so I've never had too much trouble parsing British vernacular and turns of phrase from context. I'm a big fan of context as a way of establishing meaning without taking the reader out of the story or viewpoint of a character.

However, this one has me stumped. "Mother" as in a particular "tea-serving" role (as in pouring for the guests), or "Mother" as in the head of a female monastic order, or something else?

For the OP re the exams mentioned in the query: maybe just spelling out the acronym the first time you present it would be helpful. This is a convention when abbreviations, acronyms, jargon etc. are used in many publications.

We may have different names for our exams here in the US, but we can certainly relate to their importance and the stress associated with prepping for them. When I read a book set in a different country, I enjoy experiencing the culture and turns of phrase used by people who live there.

Example: If she didn't find more time to study, she would fail her Gigantic Cumulative Sadistic Exams (GCSEs) at the end of the semester and be kicked out of school.


As an aside, I do sometimes get stumped when there's a term we use here but the same term means something completely different in the UK.

For instance, in the US the term "cow" is generally used as a sexist insult for a woman's body type (being heavy). So I was confused about why Ginny and Hermione referred to Fleur, who was clearly slim and pretty, as a "cow." At some point I did parse that in British vernacular the sexist insult "cow" is closer to the one we use here (that starts with a "b") to refer to unpleasant women. It took me a while to figure out how slow moving animals like cows can be considered, erm, b****y (though actually cows are pretty good at kicking), but then I ran across the expression "as rough tongued as a cow" and realized it was actually similar to the old sexist insult of calling a sharp-tongued woman a "cat."

Roxx (who is evidently excessively interested in the origins of vernacular phrases and therefore not a typical reader).
 
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waylander

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:ROFLMAO:

I've read a lot of British novels over the year as well as having a number of friends (and one ex) who are British, so I've never had too much trouble parsing British vernacular and turns of phrase from context. I'm a big fan of context as a way of establishing meaning without taking the reader out of the story or viewpoint of a character.

However, this one has me stumped. "Mother" as in a particular "tea-serving" role (as in pouring for the guests), or "Mother" as in the head of a female monastic order, or something else?

For the OP re the exams mentioned in the query: maybe just spelling out the acronym the first time you present it would be helpful. This is a convention when abbreviations, acronyms, jargon etc. are used in many publications.

We may have different names for our exams here in the US, but we can certainly relate to their importance and the stress associated with prepping for them. When I read a book set in a different country, I enjoy experiencing the culture and turns of phrase used by people who live there.

Example: If she didn't find more time to study, she would fail her Gigantic Cumulative Sadistic Exams (GCSEs) at the end of the semester and be kicked out of school.


As an aside, I do sometimes get stumped when there's a term we use here but the same term means something completely different in the UK.

For instance, in the US the term "cow" is generally used as a sexist insult for a woman's body type (being heavy). So I was confused about why Ginny and Hermione referred to Fleur, who was clearly slim and pretty, as a "cow." At some point I did parse that in British vernacular the sexist insult "cow" is closer to the one we use here (that starts with a "b") to refer to unpleasant women. It took me a while to figure out how slow moving animals like cows can be considered, erm, b****y (though actually cows are pretty good at kicking), but then I ran across the expression "as rough tongued as a cow" and realized it was actually similar to the old sexist insult of calling a sharp-tongued woman a "cat."

Roxx (who is evidently excessively interested in the origins of vernacular phrases and therefore not a typical reader).
At family meals mother takes charge of the teapot and pours the tea is (or was) the cultural norm. So if a diverse group of people are having tea together someone taking charge of pouring the tea is "being mother".
 
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Maryn

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I no longer have any memory of what book "mother" was in, but it was an all-male gathering including local men, a pastor, and a constable. I didn't consider the tea role/ritual but read all kinds of subtext into it that was not actually there. Later, when I learned it meant the dude poured everyone's tea and nothing more, it was funny.

Maryn, easily amused
 

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