How to Write for an American Audience. Know Our Slang and Write the Way We Talk for Success!
Are you having problems with building an audience for your articles and books in the American markets.
You try to do things right and you take great care with your writings in efforts to be accurate with the information you present to the reader.
But, for some reason, regardless of what you do, you just can’t figure out why you have such a small audience.
Well, I understand your feelings, and what I’m writing here are a few basic things that you MUST do to make your writing more popular in the American market..
Writers keep notes, everywhere.
My Writing Credentials
And what are my credentials?
Well, I’ve been dealing with this writing thing for a few decades and after doing a lot of things the wrong way, I eventually went ahead and published a number of books that are availably on Amazon and others of my own sites.
I am active on five Blogs and I have a personal web site. Am I rich? No, I just don't spend the time required to properly market my writings. And in spite of this, I still have a decent audience.
Does all of this make me a great writer, or does it mean I can call myself an expert on what American readers might consider to be Good or Bad?
Well, NO, but it does mean that I have figured out certain basic standards that minimize the bad things a writer can do that might “put off “ a potential reader.
Warning! Do not be so sensitive.
But, as a warning to everyone; I will be making some harsh observations and statements that, even though they are true, you need to just grit your teeth and accept as real-world facts for writers.
This article contains several very basic but NECESSARY rules that someone writing for the American market absolutely MUST adhere to.
Possibly, some of what I will point out might even seem insulting to you, but I recommend that you read them and use them to your advantage and not as any kind of national or personal criticism.
Comply, and you will have a better chance of success. Ignore what say here, and you will essentially be your own worst enemy, as far as your writings go.
So, if you’re interested, read on. Otherwise, thanks for reading this far and have a nice day!.
Recognize and bury your bad habits
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
by Mark Anthony (Julius Caesar)
Writing for the American Market
Of, course, I’m writing about the American writer’s market.
Over each year, I write many articles or Hubs, for several specialty markets. And of course, I regularly read articles and books by writers who are American, but I also read many which are written by great writers from other countries around the world.
But, I do have an inherent advantage over many of these writers that are not "born American" simply because I grew up in America and I speak and write “American English”.
I also understand that I’m writing for the American market, and any spill-over in popularity I get from people of other countries is great but not necessarily by design. From my perspective, this broader popularity exists because I am following my own personal writer’s rules, some of which you can find here.
When in Rome, Do as the Romans do!
Understand your potential Market
Here is the core problem for any writer.
One of the first things any good writer must define and understand is; just who am I writing my article or book for, anyway.
Are you writing for the whole vast American market of potential readers, or are you writing only for a narrow segment of this market.
Of course, within this American and other national markets there are popular segments or sub-categories of writing such as; fiction, religion, politics, cooking, photography, and on and on.
Which of these are you targeting as your potential audience.
But you must also understand that once you commit and write something for a sub-category of readers then you are, of course, placing your own limits on your potential audience; which again, is OK, if you understand this self-imposed limitation.
Here's an example;
An avid reader of articles written on subjects of politics, or fiction, could care less about your grand-mother’s favorite chocolate cake recipe, and they'll quickly skip right over such books or digital articles.
Chocolate Cakes are not what these potential customers want to read to entertain themselves.
So when you finally select your market and your sub-category of that market to write to, you are setting your own audience limits.
A really good Writer's Notebook
Even though I take my iPad almost everywhere, I still use one of these notebooks for those times I just don't feel like writing in the digital world and want to just write, with a pen in hand.
Use a Generic sounding writer's name
We all have our own family names that were given to us at birth, which is often a reflection of our nationality, heritage and family.
And of course, pretty much all of us are fond of our names just the way they are, regardless of how long or short they are or even how it is spelled or pronounced.
It's our Name!
And thats fine, because I would never suggest that anyone be ashamed of their name or even consider changing it.
Our names are a part of us, just like the color of our eyes, or how long our nose might be; our names are a part of our heritage.
Well I’m sorry that I have to tell you this, but as Americans, like peoples from every other country of the world, we have certain prejudices that everyone needs to be aware of.
Whether you like it or not, many potential readers will actually just look at the writer’s name on a book in a bookstore, or on a writing site, and pass over it in their search for something to read, if they are not comfortable with that particular name.
Many famous authors have and do use what are called a “pen names”.
And I suggest that each writer looking to be accepted by the American audience, consider picking a writing mane that Americans (your market audience, remember?) will be comfortable with.
Oh, I know you may be from India, or Russia, or Pakistan, or China, or any of many other parts of the world, and in your country, your name might be a relatively generic one.
It's the same thing here, people have long names, short names, names of all kinds, some of which seem to be everywhere in the country, names like; Jones, or Smith or Adams, are very common names.
But, you decided to write for a specific audience.
And if your name is easily readable and memorable, to an English speaking American, you will have passed the first test placed on your works, in the mind of a number of potential readers.
You do not want them to mentally trip over your name, trying to pronounce it, before they even get to what you have worked so hard to write.
Sure, your name is fine, but if a reader sees your name and after several attempts at pronouncing it, just say something like; “Jeez” where is this guy from?"
"I really don’t need the hassle of trying to interpret what he is writing!” then your battle for your audience will be a harder one to win.
Understand that when this happens to you, you have just lost a piece, not all, but a small part of your potential market.
So, writer’s rule number one is pick a potentially popular pen name and let the author move on to your book or article.
Americans speak English, generally speaking!
English is not just one language
You have to know that we all say we speak English, but the question is, which version of English do we really speak.
Of course, there is the mythical “King’s English”; that language referred to a few hundred years ago as the the British Empire spread over the world map.
Well rest easy, English wasn’t just one language then, and there are many, many more versions of English used around the world today than the original version.
In my travels around the world, I have had the honor and privilege to live long enough in a number of countries where they “speak English”.
And, looking back, I can say that i have had so many hilarious situations arise from when I and one or the other of my friends and co-workers misunderstood each other, even though we were both speaking the same language.
There are many English; dictionaries, teaching texts, tutors and thousands of works by famous writers available to us,; his conglomeration or people around the world who speak their own versions of the English language.
You would think, with this common language being used that we could communicate better.
But, honestly, we all go back to our homelands and communities and we proceed to infuse our own, accents and history into what we say, and make our English language version our own.
Once we do this, we make it a little harder to communicate with our fellow English speaking peoples around the world.
And That’s alright though, while you are at home.
But, you decided to be a writer, and then you decided to write for the American English speaking audience.
So, writer’s rule number two is; you must write using perfect English grammar and spelling, and if you need to use slang, use American slang.
That’s how you make your potential audience read your works.
Write a Perfect Title
If I haven’t bored you to death so far then let’s gt to some other points you should understand.
So, assuming that now you have a great writer’s name to use, you have committed yourself to writing in “American English” and you feel you’re ready to write your story.
Well the next thing that the reader will see first is your title. Take heed here.
You need to understand that the title of your story is your bait.
Just like a fisherman, who selects the best bait he can find to draw a fish in closer to his hook, the writer must construct a title that entices the potential reader to go to his story.
So, here it is, a simple rule that every good writer knows and understands;
Make sure your title says as much as possible in as few words as possible.
A good title is an elusive thing that is very hard to describe. It has to tell the reader what the story is about, but at the same time, not give away the story.
There can be no spare or unnecessary words in a good title; every single one must be necessary.
And, of course, your title must be grammatically correct.
Sure, you can use a one-word title like ; Dance, Bullet, Marriage, and any of many others.
But when you add a few other words to your title, you tell a little more about your story, such as; Last Dance, Sniper’s Bullet, or Deadly Marriage.
You can see that just the addition of one word tells more about your story.
The title must flow over the reader’s tongue as if it was his own words, and even bring up a picture in the reader's head hinting at what the book is about. It must grab your potential reader’s attention, as it sits there on the bookstore shelf.
The best way to get a potential reader to pass over your story is to build a title that makes no sense to them, or causes them to stop and start over while reading yours.
The Opening paragraph
Some of us “old-school” writers use a phrase for the opening sentence or paragraph to a story, and that’s, the Thesis Statement.
A thesis statement was once described to me by an English Professor this way;
A great Thesis statement is almost always at the beginning of your story, and with only one or two sentences, it must say enough about the following story that it captures the readers attention and yet does not ruin the story that follows.
Here is where there are so many warning bells for the writer.
Write this opening in grammatically perfect English, without spelling errors, or misplaced commas or even worse; misplaced or missing adverbs, adjectives, conjunctions or anything else that does not contribute to the perfection of your opening sentence which grabs the reader's attention.
If it doesn't grab your interest and make you want to continue on to the rest of the story, then your Opening has failed at its task.
the opening of the story ULYSSES by James Joyce;
Stately, plump BUCK MULLIGAN came from the Stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.
A yellow dressing gown, ungirdled, was sustained gently behind him by the mild morning air. He held the bowl aloft and intoned:
Drop your local Colloquialisms!
You must avoid using your local colloquialisms in your writings, even the popular ones, that may be used in your homeland, you.
Remember, even if everyone in your country may recognize and understand your local idioms and slang, you have already made a decision to write for an American audience, and they will only be confused by your local usage of the English language.
The exception to this is when you are writing a story for an American audience about you and your country. This case is one where you still have to write in American English as much as possible but also stay true to your home language and slang usage.
Accept it, you have to drop your local English slang and accent, and whether you like it or not, you have to take great care to make your writings clearly written for your selected American audience, and not the one you are so comfortable with, your local English language.
Grammer and Spelling Correction
When using a word processor, be sure to use an American English correction tool.
Summary of writing rules for the American market
So, what did I just tell you?
- You need to have an author’s name that the potential reader feels comfortable with. In other words, use a simple pen name that is palatable to the reader.
- Write a perfect title that, with a minimal number of words, captures the readers interest.
- Write using the American form of the English language so that your story is considered readable.
- Use the opening sentence or two to describe as much as possible about your story that follows, without giving anything away.
- Drop your local colloquialisms because they are probably not known or used in America, and will just confuse the reader.
Will following these suggestions make your story a major hit in the US? Of course not, but it will get you past a few of the barriers you will run into if you do not keep these things in mind, as you write.