Wednesday 21 March 2018

Round vs Around

I came across the whole 'round versus around' debate while editing a manuscript for an American indie author. Being British, I use them both, and consider them words with different meanings, appropriate at different times, but my American friend felt that 'around' was predominantly used in all cases, unless referring to something actually circular. Hence my research began.

A divide has clearly occurred (yet again) between the American and British usage of this word. The Brits do indeed see them as two different words, with different meanings, and interchangeable, whereas the average American doesn't; they rely heavily on around, only using round when talking about an actual circle.

So let's look at a few facts:

The word round works virtually anywhere around would work, but the opposite is not the case. There are several definitions round doesn’t share with around

For example: 

The edge of a circle is not around.
Someone would not play an around of golf
You wouldn't have big around eyes.
'Around and around the Mulburry bush' doesn't work the same. 
And just today I told my son to move his legs round under the table - meaning to turn them from the side, where he had them, under the table. If I said, move your legs around, he would have waggled them at me!😉

The word round has five grammatical functions: noun, verb, adjective, adverb, and preposition, whereas the word around has just two: adverb and preposition.
In the British English section of Oxford Dictionaries, there’s a general preference among British speakers to use round for “definite, specific movement,” and around in contexts that are less definite. 

For example:

The sun moves round the earth.
He turned round.
A car came round the corner.
They wandered around for ages.
A second hand car cost around £3,000.
According to a rumor circulating around the boardroom, he’s retiring.

There is no denying they can be ambiguous, because they can be used to define different things, as well as be interchangeable. It is not clearly defined in all instances, thus it is a choice for the writer - especially for an indie author who is not tied to publishing house rules.

But then I came across an apostrophe in front of the word round: - 'round. 

Now this is tricky because, if it is a contracted version of around, it's not officially incorrect - because they can be used to define different things. But as round can work in nearly all the same places around can, it's confusing. 

The use of such an abbreviation in dialogue, to denote dialect, might  be considered acceptable, but outside of that would be questionable.  

I would never write: 'I walked 'round the tower' in a text narrative. But I might write: "We've bin walkin' 'round ages" in dialogue. (Although I personally am more likely to write: 'We've been walkin' ar'and 'ere for ages' - but that's a choice for the author.)

So there you have it, not as straightforward as it might appear. You might have to work around it, or round it, depending on your preference.😁

Find more editing tip posts HERE.

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