To Ye or Not to Ye

When writing historical novels, or fantasy, or any writing where old language will be used…should ye be written instead of you? Or nay for that matter?

Ye was in use by 900 CE and nay was in use by 1175 CE according to English Through the Ages by Willian Brohaugh. But does either belong in your story?

I wrestled with this question myself over and over. In my forthcoming historical romance, Viking Fire, it came up several times. At first, I did not use ye. Then I thought, well it’s the time period so I changed all the you’s to ye’s. Then I took them out again. Then I put them back in.

It reminds me of a quote from Oscar Wilde, “This morning I took out a comma and this afternoon I put it back in again.”

Finally, I left in all the ye’s and sent it into my publisher. What did the editor say? Take out all the ye’s and nay’s.

So my original story without the ye’s was the better choice. Why? There are several reasons, but the best that works for me is that the story flows better.

If you are deciding on whether or not to have ye’s and nay’s or not in your writing, go with your gut first…and your editor after that. Your editor will know what works and what doesn’t—especially if you are on the fence like I was on whether to ye or not to ye.

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