101

I've found that the main key to unfamiliar words -- and this applies to jargon in technical writing as much as it does to foreign or made-up words in fiction -- is density. The example in the XKCD comic is irritating because it can't get through a single sentence without three new words. The situation is very different if three unfamiliar words are ...


76

You have read books like this, or at least are familiar with books like this: Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls is set in Spain, and it is indicated, repeatedly, that the dialogue is in Spanish, in fact in a particular dialect of Spanish. The main character's accent is even discussed. But the dialogue is written entirely in English. Romeo and ...


52

Insight. Or, if you're so smart --- Prove It! I think you misunderstand intelligent people, and I wouldn't rely on vocabulary to indicate it in the first place. I am a professor in a university, intelligent by conventional standards, but in my work and in my speech I do not use a complex vocabulary, because I consider it far more important to be understood ...


46

First, I would not do the "translation" of your last sentence. Second, you need to understand that swear words are typically one or two syllables, and the audio effect needs to be somewhat similar. Another word for "fuck" is "intercourse", but it is nearly impossible to use "intercourse!" as a swear word, in places where we would normally say "fuck!". "...


46

In your example, 白骨精, I'd say the 精 is not so much 'fairy' as it is in 妖精, but rather 'spirit' (like in 精霊), similar to how in English we can use the word 'spirit' to describe a lot of different types of ghouls and ghosts, so spirit might be a good choice as a kind of 'all round' title. Anyway, I don't have a definite answer, but I would say there's two ...


44

asvarans, vaspahrs, sardars and ostandars. I struggled with this for a different reason, I didn't want to invoke medieval Europe titles either, because little else in my story was like that, I didn't want to set up reader expectations of knightly chivalry that would not hold in the story. My Solution: Go Modern. I figure you are writing a Persian story in ...


39

Each usage has its place. #1 is most commonly used in such situations. Even if you're not writing for children, you don't necessarily want every bit of cursing. Sometimes telling that the character used a strong word is enough, or even more effective, than actually spelling out what exactly he said. #2 has place when you're writing for adults, who would ...


35

A story like this is about what the MC experiences, and should be told in the MC's voice, but it's also important to consider your readers' experiences as they read, right? This seems like a case where you need to balance the reader's expected knowledge of the subject matter with the MC's. If I told someone a story about what I did at work (and didn't want ...


34

Yes, this is part of the translation convention People tend to think of translation as a word-to-word equivalency, but it isn't. Different languages have different grammars, and each language words for concepts that can't be clearly defined in other languages. Translation is about communicating meaning and intention, and wordplay can be a vital part of ...


34

Usually no. When quoting, it is assumed that you are using the original writer's dialect and spelling, since that is a part of what they wrote. The style guides I consulted agree on that point. APA has a blog post confirming that spelling standards pertain only to your own manuscript, not quoted material: The Publication Manual’s spelling guidelines ...


33

It's ultimately up to you, but you don't want your ancient Persia overridden by knights. You may as well make them wear full plate armor instead of describing whatever garment was in use in that age for the sake of simplicity, but at the same time you'de be losing something valuable. It's true that it will be difficult for the reader to familiarize with a ...


31

Two years ago I took a course with a new professor in our university - a fresh immigrant from the US, who had to teach in Hebrew. Said professor is one of the most brilliant researchers at our faculty, so "intelligent character" - covered. How did he speak? First there was the accent. 'Heavy' doesn't begin to describe it. In writing, you wouldn't want to ...


28

Since you have a real-world justification, why not use that same justification in your fictional setting? If you want to make it a thing, have a character say "aluminum" and the other characters can eyeroll or correct as per their personalities. You could also have your infodump characters be from an international organization, and thereby set the standard ...


27

Identifying incomprehensible slang is one of the best functions of an in-person writing group. Having your work read by other writers, who do not share your cultural or linguistic biases, will quickly illuminate the unclear bits in your work.


26

It worth noting that this kind of thing has been done many times before. Stories such as The Red Badge of Courage, The Unvanquished, and Their Eyes Were Watching God all do this. Their Eyes Were Watching God takes it to an extreme as the narrator sometimes starts to talk in dialect and make the poor reader quite uncomfortable. Generally, I think reader ...


25

When in doubt, do what the masters did. Some examples: Raoden breathed a sigh of relief. "Whoever you are, I'm glad to see you. I was beginning to think everyone in here was either dying or insane." "We can't be dying," the an responded with a snort. "We're already dead. Kolo?" "Kolo." The foreign word was vaguely familiar, as was the man's strong ...


22

How much of this language are you going to use? Single words? Phrases? Sentences? Paragraphs? If it's just a few words or phrases, make up a few, be consistent in their usage, and call it a day. If you're carrying on entire dialogues in this tongue, I would first recommend "Don't overdo it." For the purposes of your question (and I Am Not A Linguist, so ...


22

Writers Should Disappear The work of a writer is to disappear. In the best writing the reader does not even notice that there is a "writer at work". When I first read that word, I read it as Cut-ease. I thought it was going to mean something like making a cut easier. It made me pause. When I paused to think about it, I started wondering what the writer ...


21

Not all ESL speakers will sound the same, for the simple reason that they all had a first language. If you want to add realism, you need to determine what language they natively speak. Your native language shapes your ideas of tense, sentence structure, and what phonemes you're used to considering as actual word-sounds and not mere noise. Some oriental ...


21

This question is simply answered: Let others read your work! Others often have a different view on the project, especially if they are not related to you; they often deliver a pretty good review on your work and your writing style. If the slang is too much, they will tell you that too.


21

You don't try to be accurate, you anglicize it. If you are writing in English about a Korean family, the reader expects you to translate dialogue into understandable English that is not awkward. If the speaker is male, then his older brother is 형. If the speaker is female, then her older brother is 오빠. But doesn't a Korean boy/girl do this automatically ...


21

Who is your audience? What languages do they know? If it's an international contest, are there language guidelines? If it says English Only, then be at least 99% English! Are you planning on a few loanwords from Tagalog that are really hard to easily phrase in English? That sounds fine, especially if a reader can gather enough about them from context. (...


20

This has been handled a few ways in comics: Have the text in word balloons be a translation of the original, with a footnote indicating "translated from other-language-name". You can graphically remind the user of this as you go along by having the other language be in a different typeface, have the word balloons be a different color than usual, or a ...


20

One trick, once you've identified the words you're overusing, is to remove them from the dictionary of the spell checker you are using. That way your text editor will highlight then for you and it's easy to go through afterwards and decide whether each instance needs to be kept our removed. This works for words you want to avoid entirely and for words you ...


19

The differences between 'fairy', 'elf' 'goblin' and 'demon' are not negligible. The fact that a dictionary offers you all of them, or that all have been used in different setting in the past, does not imply that all those words mean the same thing, but that in different situations or contexts, they can be used to describe a Yōsei. (That's the transliteration ...


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