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March 2013

Writing a British Character

whilst avoiding stereotypes.

I am a British (to be specific English) person. I am sick of seeing badly written British characters so I’m going to help you out. 


Within the UK we then have England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. What you might not realise is that in each of these countries dialogue, traditions and slang can be vastly different. 

I’ve seen posts going around with British slang words but it’s practically useless to you if you don’t know which areas say these words. I’m from Yorkshire which is classed as having a ‘broad’ accent. We have words such as ‘mardy’ ‘Ey up’ ‘Nah then’ ‘innit’ ‘Gennel’. But people from other areas have no idea what I’m saying and don’t understand the slang because it is so region specific. Oh and what causes major arguments with my university friends is whether bread is ‘Bread Cakes’ ‘Bread rolls’ or ‘Bread buns’.

So know the area and the slang.


There are more places in the UK than London. So think about it and do some research before you decide where you want your character to be from, do something different and have them from ‘up north’. 




Although I touched on this in the region section I think this is really important.We don’t all talk like the bleedin’ Queen. When I was a child this was the most annoying thing about children’s tv shows. Not only was the British character always the bad guy they always had a badly done posh accent and sat around drinking tea. 

So watch some videos, you don’t need to write in the accent but it will help you to familiarise yourself with the way people from that area speak. 


These have a warning light above. Avoid at all costs. That snotty upper-class English person with a large chin? AVOID AT ALL COSTS. 

I understand how easy it is to fall into stereotypes, but avoid them if you can. It will affect how good your end product is.

How we identify 

I am a British person, but if someone was to ask me where I was from I would say English. Keep this mind when writing I don’t know many people who would introduce themselves and say ‘Oh I’m from Britain.’ We just don’t. All though we are one country- the UK. We all identify with the country we are born in. Most people are very proud and independent especially the Scottish and Welsh. They will normally identify with ‘Wales/Scotland/England/N.Ireland before they identify as British or from the UK. 

So please keep this is mind!

Our own Stereotypes

Within the UK we don’t always get on and there is a lot of rivalry between parts of the UK. So for example the English call the Welsh ‘Sheep shaggers’ which is just a joke. 

The South and North of England are hugely different places with people ‘darnnnn south’ thinking people from the north are all farmers and then the people from ‘Up Norff’ thinking those in the south are all posh. Off course it’s all nonsense, and we know it is. But we still say it! 

A person first

You’ve decided to make a character British, great! But you should do your character development for this character the exact same as you would do any other character. The fact they are British doesn’t affect what their positive and negative traits are going to be. What effects these is their personality, background. Not where in the world they are from. 

You’ve got a character in your novel that is British, not a British character. 

Think of it that way and your character will be better off. 


What this all comes down to, in the end is RESEARCH. 

These links might give you an idea where to start, you will of course need to do further research 

When writing as if British and when writing a British character

How to write dialogue for British characters with an accent

Regions of Britain

Sounds familiar? Accent and Dialects in the UK

Regional accents of English

Writing British characters

The North/South divide

The best kind of research is to ASK someone. I’m from England and if you want to ask me any questions I will do my best to help, bear in mind though I can only tell you about where I’m from which is Yorkshire. 

Hope this has been of help, I had a right laugh making this as I asked my Dad for help and he sat by me and randomly said slang words. (hence the slang post that I’m making)

If you can think of anything I have missed let me know and I’ll add it in. I haven’t included everything you need to think about but hopefully it will just help you get started. 


EDIT: Another thing to keep in mind is that Wales especially has it’s own language and while not everyone from Wales speaks welsh in certain areas they do. So make sure you find out whether or not the area your character is from is likely to speak another language. 

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