Canadian Spelling… what’s the difference?
Canadian spelling has been historically linked to British standards. However, spelling conventions are constantly shifting on the ill-defined continuum between British and American English. Some argue that there is a regional bias to Canadian spelling: Ontario, British Columbia, and Atlantic Canada more closely follow British practices, while Alberta and the Prarie provinces have gravitated towards American conventions.
Here are my recommendations to aspiring Canadian writers:
Buy the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, and don’t trust your word processor’s spell-check feature. The English (Canada) dictionary in Microsoft Word follows British conventions, even in cases where Canadian writers prefer American spelling.
Finally, follow the Spelling Guidelines listed below and your documents will be truly “Canadian”. To find out more guidelines for creating technical documents, visit my on-line style guide for technical communicators.
- Where a verb has two past-tense forms, use either without preference (e.g. kneeled or knelt).
- Use preferred spelling in the case of place names, businesses, book titles, movies, and other works.
- Apply Canadian spelling to government departments and agencies (e.g. United States Department of Defence).
- Diphthongs use American spelling in most cases. (exception: “oe” diphthongs such as manoeuvre).
- The use of silent e+ suffix follows American or British standards.
- Always use –our endings instead of the American –or.
- Always use –re endings instead of the American –er.
- Always use –yze endings instead of the British –yse.
- The use of silent –l or –ll follows American or British standards.
- Always use double consonants, following the British model, except combatting.
Canadian Spelling Conventions
|c and s||defence||licence (n.) practice (n.)||license (v.) practise (v.)|
|e + suffix||acknowledgement||judgment||livable|
|–l or –ll||appall||enrolment||instalment|
|–re not –er||centre||lustre||theatre|
|–our not –or||behaviour||flavour||humour|
|–yze not –yse||analyze||breathalyzer||catalyze|
 Mastin, Luke. “Canadian, British and American Spelling.” Accessed December 9, 2011. http://www.lukemastin.com/testing/spelling/cgi-bin/database.cgi?action=home.