Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Authentic Dialect

Good article in Writer's Digest: How to Give Your Character an Authentic Dialect.

Here’s a good rule of thumb for dialect: Do not use the language unless you live the language.

How many times have we seen authors try to write southern dialect when it is obvious they are not from the south and have not lived long enough in the south to know a southern dialect when they hear it?

We who live here know that every state has various dialects. Being from Georgia, I recognize dialects of southwestern Georgia and dialects from north Georgia. Folks in Savannah have their own way of speaking that is different from those other parts of the state. Native Georgia black people speak in a dialect that is different from most white native Georgians.

I think the writer is correct. Do not use the language unless you live the language. Writing dialect is tricky. It can ruin a story when overdone or done incorrectly. 


  1. Great article. Personally, I would prefer that fiction writers leave the dialect out because it slows down my reading. I recently purchased an unabridged Mark Twain book. Because it contains the dialect as he wrote it (about 150 yrs ago) I stopped reading, and may never get back to it. And Mark Twain is one of my favorites!

  2. I talked with a man who had recently moved to these mountains and he delighted in writing what he called "mountain dialect." I never saw any of his writing, but I wonder how well it was received.

    I am listening to Ron Rash's book, Serena, on audio. I love it! The reader skillfully performs each speaking part and Rash used the language spoken in that time by natives of this region. The mountain people and the lumber company people sound distinctly different.
    Rash deserves all the acclaim he received for this book.


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