Friday, October 22, 2010

"I'll Not" Write This Way and Other Regionalisms

Maybe its a southern thing. Two of my favorite authors (I won't name names but they both happen to be from the south) use the contraction "I'll not," and related contractions: s/he'll not, we'll not, they'll not, you'll not, they'd not, s/he'd not, I'd not.

It drives me buggy. One of these writers I've only caught in the act once or twice. The other one, I can count on her doing it at least three to four times in each novel. I read her work anyway, because she's a fabulous writer and I enjoy her style. But every time I come across it, my suspension of disbelief gets zapped to heck and I remember I'm reading a book.

Okay, color me nitpicky. As I understand it, the correct phrase would be "I won't, she won't," etc. Now I'll be the first to admit that I don't have the right to be the grammar police. For me, good writing is about learning the rules well enough, and then learning when to break them. And I start sentences with conjunctions. In fact the grammar checker on my word-processing program hates me. It often accuses me of writing sentence fragments. So I turn it off.

Maybe it is a regional thing. Her characters are from Georgia, and what do I know about how they talk there? So I deal.

Then one day this author brought in a character who was supposed to be from New York. And guessed it. He said, "I'll not."

At this point I had to take a short break from the book. I'm from New York. I know how we talk. New Yorkers do not talk that way. In fact we only say "do not" when we're ticked off or making a point. Otherwise we say, "don't."

So the moral of the story, if you're writing about a character with a background that's like yours, write the way you speak. If you're writing about someone from a different place, find someone who's from there and ask them to read over the dialogue. Or better yet, have them read it to you, over the phone or on voice chat.

What regionalisms have you noticed in your writing or another writer's and does it make "y'all" crazy. What good uses of regional dialect have you found?

1 comment:

  1. Good point. I'm from the upper midwest. We don't speak that way, either. I got a laugh once from a southerner mocking northerners trying to sound southern and addressing a single person as "y'all."

    I'll not do this save for humor's purpose.