Monday 1 August 2011

Writing In Scots Dialect

I've been following a thread on Marion McCready's blog about writing in Scots. Writing in dialect is something that I spent a lot of time thinking about, even before I read Marion's blog post; my first novel, Drive!, is full of East Central Scotland argot.

Two things are clear to me. An unknown writer has a minuscule chance of finding a readership. An unknown writer writing in dialect has even less chance.

Any thoughts?


  1. I think with poetry being such a niche interest that poetry in Scots has an absolute niche readership (apart from the obvious Burns, MacDiarmid etc). With fiction I wonder if it's quite different considering the widespread fame of Iain Banks, Ian Rankin and Irvine Welsh. Although I'm not sure how much actual dialect in in the novels.

  2. All you have to do is ask yourself how many writers you know – not Scots – who write in a dialect. I did some research on it a while back and I really struggled to find many. We Scots, by our very natures, make a fuss about things that other cultures would shrug at; we’re proud of our differences. Most people in the world tend to view Scots as English spoken in a funny accent – or as William McIlvanney put it “English in its underwear”. The last Scottish book I reviewed I actually criticised because the voices didn’t feel right especially because it was set in the forties when I would imagine the local twang would have been much thicker, not yet diluted by watching too many American sitcoms.

    It’s hard to find a balance. My next book is set in Ireland, albeit an imaginary one, and I was very keen to find a balance including enough Irishisms to make it believable without making it unintelligible. I think Irvine Welsh goes too far – I find his books a hard read and I am Scottish – and we do want to be read. I’ve written a couple of short stories that are in Glaswegian and they both got published (in a Scottish magazine) but in the two novels that are set in Scotland I play it safe mainly because I write as I speak and despite having lived my entire life here I’ve never quite shaken the Lancashire accent that I heard spoken daily by both my parents.