How to Write Dialect
- Be specific. If you’re going to have a character speak in dialect, it should be a specific Choose exactly where on the globe the character comes from and use that specific dialect. Don’t just use some general accent that you made up!
- Listen. You can’t write in dialect unless you really know how people sound. Pay attention to small differences in pronunciation, especially in the way vowels sound. And sentence structure and vocabulary. And make sure you’re listening to people from your specific, chosen region; all dialects are different.
- Avoid clichés. There are lots of clichés and stereotypes about the way people talk. For example, if you’re writing an Irish character you might have them drop the “f” from the word “of”: it’s the end o’ the summer. That’s a common way of speaking which is often used to characterize Irish English. The problem is it’s too It’s overused. If your dialect is made up of a bunch of clichés, you give the impression that you haven’t actually listened to how people talk.
- Be respectful. People sometimes imitate dialects to make fun of others or belittle the way they talk. That’s a sure recipe for causing offense. Instead, be respectful of others’ dialects, even if they’re different from your own. According to linguistic science, dialects are not just collections of mistakes, they have their own rules, and they can be just as intelligent as the standard English.
When to Use Dialect
Dialect is definitely just for creative writing unless you’re doing linguistics! There’s no reason to use it in a formal essay. If you were writing a linguistics paper specifically about regional pronunciations, there might be a reason, but that’s a pretty rare situation. So just avoid it in essays!
Even in creative writing, though, it’s not always appropriate or effective to write in dialect. Basically, you should only use it when there’s some specific creative reason why the character’s dialect should be a feature of the story. For example, you might be trying to paint a portrait of your home community and feel that the music of people’s speech is important. Or you might use it to contrast characters. Or you might feel that one particular character should have a strong dialect to show where they came from. But because dialect carries so many risks it’s best to use it only when you feel like it’s