Posted On September 27, 2017 by Print This Post

Writing as a Southerner by Keri Ford

Welcome to “Wayback Wednesday.” The author originally scheduled to visit has a bad case of the flu. She’ll join us when she’s feeling better, but in the meantime we’re posting a repeat of Keri Ford‘s guest blog, which first appeared at RU in January 2016. 

I’ve known Keri Ford since she was a young whippersnapper.  I’ve always been intrigued by her “Southern-isms,” especially since she lives in Arkansas, and that’s where I was born. I might have shared her captivating way of speaking if I’d stayed in the South. Instead, I literally went to Arkansas to be born, and then returned to the land of the flat Midwestern twang. When I came across an online conversation about writing Southern, I instantly started pestering Keri to write a post for RU on this topic. Being the sweet Southerner she is, of course she agreed. Enjoy!

(P.S. Keri will be back with a new RU post on November 10, 2017, writing under her new pen name, KERI F. SWEET. Check in to read about all her exciting news!)

Thanks, Becke, for asking me here today on Romance University! See what happened was, I made this post:

RU pic keri ford


And Becke asked if I’d like to expand on this topic a little. So I thought sure! And then it came time to write and I was a little stumped. See there’s more to Southern language than talking slow and saying, “Grab me a buggy” when you’re shopping instead of that cart business. It’s the charming way we phrase sentences. At least we think we’re charming. To the rest of the folks out in the big wide world, it’s a different c-word. Confusing. It’s the large pitfall to “writing the way you talk” when you’re country folk like I do and am.

That’s not something I want to teach anyone to do because it can be a giant headache when your editor says “this doesn’t make sense” and I stare at it for 20minutes trying to figure out how and where they got confused (see ‘fixing to’ below). In the long run it wouldn’t help you out anyway because my editors go through and make adjustments so I’m more mainstream. And my beautiful cp (bless her) gets hit with the first lines.

So let’s discuss some word choices that will add realism to your southern set book but not all the confusion. Bonus content “FUN FACTS” are included for more information on some words.

Buggy, not cart or whatever other fancy pants terminology you come up with.

Coke, no pop or soda (FUN FACT! Coke is a trademarked word, so as a writer you can’t use a lower case coke as Southerns toss it around or you’re in violation. Pick a specific brand.)

Dinner is a lunch time eating.

Supper is a nighttime eating.

Though, we also use lunch for meaning lunch time too.

It’s a water fountain. Or simply a fountain. Bubbler? No.

Fixing to. (ahem, fixin’ to).There’s no “about to” here. It’s fixing to do something. I’m fixing to go to the store. I’m fixing to make dinner. (FUN FACT: some editors will let me keep my fixing. Others insist on ‘about to’ and make the comment “this doesn’t make any sense. She’s not fixing anything to go shopping.” Me: “…wha?”. Took me a while to puzzle out the literal, dictionary meaning of fixing to comprehend what my editor wanted. YMMV)

If someone says “Gimmie some sugars” they’re seeking a kiss. Usually it’s adults to kids. Mostly women. (aunts/grandmas/moms to little ones in their family or kids of close friends. Men doing it are creepy to me.)

Bell peppers are the large green ones the size of a fist. You can eat them raw without a glass of water to cool your mouth off. Ranch dressing for dipping. Hot peppers are for seriously HOT PEPPERS made for turning your mouth to fire and adding kick to chili. The words ‘hot pepper’ is not a substitute for bells.  (FUN FACT: I learned this one in the making of this post. I can’t imagine why one would risk mixing those two words so willy-nilly….)

Random folks do hold open doors for other random people. (FUN FACT! Not always a man gets the door. I frequently get the door and hold it for women or men who are older than me. It’s often held open for me from a younger generation of either sex. I grab it for people with their hands full or if I’m just a step or two ahead. I hold it for whoever is behind me or if someone is coming in the door in front of me.)

Ma’am and Sir isn’t just for people older than you. It’s also a pleasant response for anyone doing a service. Like a teenager handing me food through a drive-thru window. I believe not using ma’am or sir is equal to the cut direct so it’s extremely frustrating for a Southern to be told to stop. Stop making me be rude, follks! (FUN FACT: learning these manners as a kid is serious business. I’m talking hand swipes, cheek pops, hairy eyeballs promising punishment later and all sorts of things. We begin learning these things as babies. Being asked not to ma’am or sir is one of the hardest things I’ve found myself trying to remember in social situations. You might as well ask me to properly speak in a British accent for the duration of our conversation and to remember to use that accent every time we speak in the future. I’m sorry if it slips out. I’m trying to curb my raising for your benefit so please don’t get mad, okay?)

Bless your heart has been covered a bajillionity times. If you don’t know this one, bless your heart.

I run into the occasional person who does drink hot tea. Don’t think I’ve met anyone who adds milk to their tea yet and usually when I mention doing that, people look like they want to vomit by the idea.

Ketchup goes on fries. (Mayonnaise?? My god, do you kill kittens in your spare time?)

If you’re a transplant, we’re going to call you a Yankee. If we like you, it’s an endearment. If not, it’s an insult. (Multiple meanings as with bless your heart.) (FUN FACT! Calling someone a Yankee may be an insult! So with that in mind, the vast majority of people I know would use it just because they know they’re nagging someone.)

Southern, Hillbilly, Redneck, Country and Cajun are all different groups of people, all living in the South but they are nowhere close to being the same group of people. We’re all Southern. Hillbillies are mostly in the mountains. Rednecks and Country Folk are a bit all over and these lines blur a little. I’d say all Rednecks are Country Folk but not all Country Folk are Rednecks. Cajuns are generally in the southern Louisiana region, but just because a person lives in southern Louisiana, that doesn’t make them Cajun. Do your research on this one if you’re going to use one of these words!

I’ll close with a random tidbit for any chef books. I have a friend who eats at my house. She’ll often ask what I put in it. The answer always includes butter, sugar, or butter and sugar.  And you can pry my deep fryer from my cold dead fingers, but I’m gonna haunt you for life.


Do you have any words or things you’re curious about? Any phrases you’ve come across that left you scratching your head?

Leave me a comment and I’ll pick a winner for a digital book. Winner’s choice between my Turtle Pine series, Cupcakes And Crushes or my upcoming, Tequila And Tingles.

*Many thanks to Ella Drake and Voirey Linger for the assistance in compiling this list!

My next release, Tequila And Tingles (Turtle Pine, 2) Releases January 26, 2016!


Love doesn’t hang around in the shallow end. You have to dive deep for it.

Turtle Pine, Book 2

Tequila shots 1, Beth Revlin 0.

No respectable single mom wakes up in a stranger’s hotel room with no memory of what happened the night before. When Beth does just that, she willingly takes the walk—more like a sprint—of shame, rather than face her humiliation.

Then Mr. One Night Stand turns out to be Mr. New Swim Coach to her five-year-old daughter. Holding her head high and pretending nothing happened seems like a good plan.

Olympic gold medalist Jason Johnson plans to stay in Turtle Pine just long enough to recharge his batteries. But Beth and her painfully shy little girl touch something in the depths of his soul. Besides, he needs to return Beth’s shoes without inciting small-town gossip—and tell her the truth about that night.

Beth can’t deny she’s attracted, but she’s not just guarding her own heart. She’s guarding her children’s hearts as well. If Jason captures them only to walk away, the pain he’ll leave in his wake could be more than she can handle.

Warning: Contains an Olympic swimmer who’s got his strokes down to a science, and a single mom who’s seriously considering jumping into the deep end.




Keri Ford brings sexy contemporary romance to the American South. With a sprinkling of men in suits and women in high heels, you’ll most likely find four-wheeler riding, ball cap wearing fellas trying to sweet-talk sundress wearing ladies in Keri’s books. Raised in the country in South Arkansas, Keri shares this flavor of life in her books. Glass of sweet tea at your elbow while you read is not required, but strongly recommended.

Keri is represented by Louise Fury and Victoria Lowes of The Bent Agency. She’s multi-published, including the popular Through The Wall from An Apple Trail Novella Series. Her full length series in Bella Warren, Arkansas continues in 2015 from Lyrical Press. Be on the lookout for a new town—Turtle Pine, Alabama, coming soon! To keep up with this busy author, join her newsletter to catch all her new releases.

Come Find me!




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7 Responses to “Writing as a Southerner by Keri Ford”

  1. several paragraphs appear twice – double cut and paste It’s a water fountain down to bubbler down to bell peppers—-cut and paste error

    I am from New England but had Southern relatives and went to grade school down south — love it Tell the editor to go hang!

    Posted by Donnamaie White | September 27, 2017, 9:32 am
  2. I just love this post. I grew up with a New England grandmother who had a different accent from the rest of us. She said things like “tag sale” when we said “garage sale.”

    I used to call soda “pop” until I lived in Cincinnati for almost 20 years. Cincinnati is almost Southern – at least it is to me, although I doubt Keri would agree. Anyway, I heard people refer to canned fizzy drinks as “soda” so often I now catch myself doing it.

    I married an Englishman so I am one of those people who drinks hot tea with milk. I do NOT like Earl Grey, though – just plain old English Breakfast tea. And my favorite cold tea is mixed with lemonade – an Arnold Palmer!

    I occasionally find myself saying “ma’am” or “sir” but I think it’s kind of funny the number of people who call me “Miss Becke” – little kids and adults, Southerners and Yanks. “Miss” must just go with my name.

    My grandfather, who was a Southern gentleman even though he had lived all over the U.S. as a military man, used to say “Greetings and salutations!” when he greeted people, and I’ve always loved that phrase. I’m not sure if it’s a Southernism or just something he picked up.

    I also hold the door for male and female, young and old. I don’t know if that’s a Southern thing but once you develop the habit, it’s a hard one to stop. (And really, why stop?)

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | September 27, 2017, 10:27 am
  3. Pocketbook vs purse? My setting is in the 1940s, so I’m wondering which one to use. My New Jersey m-in-law says pocketbook (oddly). Any ideas? And what would you call a church rummage sale? I’ve heard of “bane and blessings”. Thank you!

    Posted by Janice Laird | September 27, 2017, 1:11 pm

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