Do you try to write in the appropriate vernacular of the time period you write in, or do you modernize it?

Question is topic.

Do you try to write in a way that feels authentic for the time period, or no?

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Modernize it. I don’t even try to use a language appropriate to the time period to be honest :joy: but I do make an effort to leave out words that either wouldn’t have been used at the time (get those ‘okays’ out of any historical fiction prior to the 20th century) or to include words more ‘old-sounding’ (whatever that means) that wouldn’t have been in use closer to the time period. Although even with that, I’m not too picky (one could fall victim of, for example, using vernacular popular in the victorian era for a story set in the 1700s, and that makes it weird, I think?).

Now what I DO use is the slang and insults. Those are timeless for me. I just love building up a scene al casual and everything and suddenly, bam ‘yer a lobcock’ which admittedly is a common insult in the 1700s but that gives that authenticity feel, you know?!


My story is set in the 12th century, so by default I modernize the vernacular. I do try to be as historically accurate as possible with topics that are discussed and other aspects of the setting.

However, if I was writing something set in a more recent period, like in the 40s, I think I would try to make my dialogue more time period specific. I’m not sure where the “cut off” is in my mind, but I do feel like at a certain point language becomes different enough from modern usage that it is no longer appropriate to try and be time-period specific with language. You don’t want your readers to need a dictionary to know what your characters are saying!

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I definitely modernize it, but for my second and third WIPs, I never write contraction words and I try to make my writing sound formalin a old-timey way :sweat_smile:

Definitely modernize. But Victorian era English vs now English for as far as I can see, isn’t super far apart, in terms of language, so wherever I can make it authentic I do :slight_smile:

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or have to try to make it even more in the second draft as my first draft is just a vomit one XD

I modernize it, but try to keep it in the same sentence stance. For Example,

I do not know how he came to be. He had been advancing towards me, but I could have sworn that I was walking quite a faster pace than he. Oh dear, what am I to do now?

^^^ Like that. XD

I’ve modernised it. I can barely write proper English, I’m not gonna try and write era accurate English to the 1100’th. Not to mention, I’d have to learn Old Norse too instead of just using Danish in the book.

Yeah, modernising was the way to go for me.

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Moderise it but keep it suitable. So Imight use formal prose. I keep the dialogue as historically accurate as I can without it being too complicated or off-putting. I think it’s important to keep narrative modern because your readers are modern, they aren’t readers from the time period of your story, styyles have changed. But I think it’s important to keep dialogue accurate otherwise it becomes unbelievable. I don’t like Phillippa Gregory books because I feel the dialogue has beenmade too modern. One book that’s written wuth an 18th century narrative style and is absolutely brilliant is Suzanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.

I’m all for modernizing, even if it feels super modern, because people in the past thought the way they talked was super modern too, and that people before them were archaic.

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It depends, for a true historical fiction I might.

For something where a historical figure is reincarnated into the present, and even lives in a different country, then I don’t worry that as much.

In fact, for a story with reincarnation, the entire point is it being set in the present day. So then you’d only have to worry about getting the accent right (if it’s set in a country you don’t live in.)

For reference, I don’t mean Historical fiction where certain scenes are in the present day, in order to be played for laughs.

I mean more like the entire plot is in the present day, the MC just happens to be Charlotte Corday or Ann Frank. Or in my case, more obscure historical figures.

In order to put a meaning to the term, “living like Marie Antionette”. As an example.

I try to keep it as genuine as possible but as I do not live in the time period I’m writing about, it’s very difficult to write the vernacular of the era. However, people really should research anachronisms before writing anything with historical fiction. No one used “okay” in the vernacular up until actually the 30s-40s around that time. So using okay is not okay lol.

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dear lord, I do both sort of-
like, keep it true but readable

Trying really hard to strike the balance between readable yet immersive, but what I’ve found when writing a tudor-esq story set in court, is that you can write in a fancier tone, leave out conjunctions and sound somewhat historical yet maintaining an actually readable story. However, I would like to try writing in solely time specific vernacular, does anyone have experience doing that? It sounds really hard.

‘okay’ is a real struggle. Just in case, I always make a quick find/replace search to see if I got confused :sweat_smile:

I don’t write in vernacular language - because I’m not even English - but I read some books, with a dictionary beside me :rofl: I think that if we had to strictly adhere to old languages, no one would understand (and we probably wouldn’t even be able to write it).

I try and keep the language somewhere in the middle. Modernized, but sometimes you will notice the older language.

I did however made a joke about it in one of the books I wrote, where one of the main characters inserted side comments, because the protagonist was in a bit of a rage, so this was their way of trying to shift the subject a bit lol.

The joke was that the character was saying that the archaic language isn’t used anymore.


Having a balance depending on the time period as well as the character, and ranking of the character can affect the language used. I personally try and keep it in a balance. More modernized, but time to time you may see the older language at use in specific situations as to emphasize a point.

Vernaculars are also incredibly varied from where you are, especially in Old England, and just like our world now, slang and phrases go out of fashion very fast. I think you’d have to be veeerrryyy meticulous about everything you write if you want it to be completely acurate.

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Exactly. For modern people I think it’s almost impossible :sweat_smile:

After a certain point in the past, when the English starts to get really different, I wouldn’t even object to someone fully modernizing it to contemporary slang and stuff, because authentic Middle English is barely understandable today, and, plus, it didn’t seem archaic to its speakers so it shouldn’t always have to to readers today