I’ve read that writers, especially beginners, should never use
dialects in their writing. And I wholeheartedly agree. Dialects slow
the reader down, trying to figure out what’s being said. The minute
the reader slows down, you run the risk of losing their interest.
They’ll stuff in a bookmark and reach for the tv remote. Unless it’s
Marc McCutcheon, in his book Building Believable Characters, offers
two ways to intimate dialect without actually putting it into the text:
1. Announce that the speaker has a foreign accent, and leave it to
the readers’ imagination to fill in the rest.
2. Drop in a foreign word every now and then (German “nein” or
Italian “passaporto”) and the reader will get it. Use simple words
that most people will know and understand, and avoid constructing
entire sentences or phrases in foreign languages, especially if you
aren’t familiar with the language. After all, you wouldn’t want ot
make a grammatical error.
Interestingly, Mr. McCutcheon believes that dialect can be a “superb”
way of characterizing a speaker’s dialogue, but that most
inexperienced writers overdo it way too often. He believes that “less
is more” and advises that authors only use it occasionally to remind
the reader that the speaker has an accent.
As a reader, I hate coming across huge portions of dialect. As a
writer, they’re hard to pen. I tend to avoid them entirely.