Have you ever been confused about how you should write Romaji Japanese words? For those who don’t know, Romaji is Japanese that is spelt using the Roman alphabet. Unfortunately, you soon become aware that it isn’t always as simple as it seems.
Don’t pluralize Romaji nouns
Have you been writing ‘animes’? Uh-oh! In Japanese, nouns are both plural and non-plural. Accordingly, it’s become commonplace to stick to the same pattern when writing romaji, too. So no pluralization!
Accents vs elongation vs ignoring it altogether
Let’s makes this simpler with an example. とうほく (東北) is a well-known region in Japan, but how should you write it? You could write it as Tohoku, Touhoku, or Tōhoku. There is no golden rule to writing Romaji, and there are several different styles to choose from. The most important thing is consistency! Don’t mix and match!
I generally avoid using the accent simply because I’m too lazy to type it!
N or M?
In Japanese, when the ‘n’ syllable meets a syllable that starts with ‘p’ – many consider the sound to be an m instead of an n. That means you can write ‘kampai’ instead of ‘kanpai’ and ‘tempura’ instead of ‘tenpura’. Of course, you’re allowed to use either, but once again, consistency is key.
If you’re doing a bit of serious writing, you may want to consider using italics. Many professional writers often write foreign words in italics to highlight them. How do the italics in this article look to you? It’s completely up to you if you use them or not, though.
The pronunciation H
Some writers like to write Japanese words how they are pronounced. The letter H can come in quite handy here. For example, you could write ‘koban’ as ‘kohban’. This is one of the rules that follow under the Hepburn writing style.
Most of this article I wrote from the top of my head (I read a whole book on romanization last year). However, if you’re still unsure or want more information on the Hepburn style or any other styles, you could check out the wikipedia page here.