I then gave reasons as any responsible writer and editor should do. First, dialect is difficult. Unless one has grown up with the language, it’s easy to misuse it. Even if one has grown up with it, it’s no guarantee that the writer will know how to write those speech patterns. They’re innate. While they have rules, they’re usually unwritten unless a linguist has taken the time to study them. To use the dialect without knowing those rules is to risk peril. People who speak in that dialect will recognize when the dialect isn’t authentic. They may feel that they and their language are being mocked.
If one hasn’t grown up with the language or struggles to write in the language in which he or she has grown up, only two choices remain: work with someone from that area or do research. Working with someone from the area has its own dangers; that person, as in the case stated earlier, may or may not be able to convey the dialect in written form. Thus, the writer has to work with someone who not only has an ear and mouth for the dialect but also an eye. The only other option is to work with a linguist who has studied the dialect, which is a safer choice but perhaps a more expensive one.
The second option requires much more work on the part of the writer. The writer has to submerse himself or herself not only in the dialect but also in the culture to which it is tied. The writer has to understand context in order to use dialect correctly. Studying and interacting with the culture may be a time-consuming task, but it is the only way to produce a healthy and necessary respect for the language and the culture. That respect will then be transmitted in the dialect itself.
The only other option – and there is one more – is the one I stated at the beginning: don’t do it. Writers may worry that their characters won’t convey properly without the dialect, but I negate that idea immediately. If a writer relies on dialect to carry the character, the writer has not spent enough time developing the character. Every nuance of the character builds it. Sharing certain details creates a picture in the reader’s mind, and the reader will read the character’s dialogue according to those details. A woman who’s on her porch at two every afternoon with a mint julep and always dresses up to do even the smallest of errands? She’s probably from the South, and readers will insert their own version of a Southern accent as they read her dialogue. The guy hawking hot dogs at Central Park? He’s not even fully formed as a character yet, but readers will begin to think of a New York accent.
The answer to the question is three. Don’t use dialect, work with someone who knows the dialect, or do the research. I also recommend reading authors who use dialect well. Mark Twain is one as is Alice Walker.