Canadian vs. American spelling

Choosing Canadian vs. American spelling shouldn't be left up to the default settings in your word processor. Language and culture do matter to your readers. For some words there can be regional differences: color is more common in the west and colour in Eastern Canada although more Canadian resources are helping consistency. Consider your audience and write for them.

The differences can be dizzying to even the most capable of writers. Here are some tips to help sort the single or double-l ("ll") and all the extras "u"s while tackling the issue of Canadian vs. American spelling.

Canadian vs. American spelling resources

Translation Bureau, Gov't of Canada

For a crash course on the history of Canadian English and Canadian Vs. American spelling, the Canadian Government's article "Why Canadian spelling is different" is a great place to start. This quick, engrossing read breaks down the tense historical context behind our current use of Canadian English and follows up with a links that focus on our language and culture.

Canadian, British and American Spelling

Canadian vs. American vs. British spelling

There can be lots of variations, as Canadian English is unique.

If you find yourself struggling with the spelling of a particular word, Luke Mastin has your back. His site includes a massive word list including Canadian vs. American spelling, along with a guide to Canadian vs. American vs. British spelling (yes, things just got more complex). If you're pressed for time and unable to scroll through dozens of entries, just type the word into the search bar located under the headers or browse through each section alphabetically.

The Canadian Press Stylebook

Frequently updated, with the most recent edition released in 2018, the Canadian Press Stylebook is the go-to style guide for college students and communications industry professionals alike. The book contains clear, concise instructions on capitalization, punctuation, and abbreviations; a chapter on writing for the internet; listings and spellings of countries and cities around the world and a comprehensive guide on hard-to-pronounce Canadian locations. Well worth the investment!

Canadian English Wikipedia

Wikipedia's article on Canadian English is a fascinating and comprehensive read that, along with resources on Canadian vs. American spelling, contains sections dedicated to phonetics (including regional variations), dictionaries, and "Canadianisms" (quirks often attributed to Canadian word-use and spelling). The article closes with statistics and statements regarding attitudes surrounding Canadian English and spelling.

Missing U Neighbor on Canadian vs. American

Missing U, Neighbor! by Layla R. Ford

For a comedic take on the matter, take a peek at Missing U, Neighbor!  which chronicle's a couple's experiences living in the American Southwest in order to escape the harsh Canadian winters. Along with language, the book tackles a variety of cross-border subjects including healthcare, gun control, fast food and free trade.

The Grammarist

Not entirely specific to Canadian vs American spelling, but the Grammarist is a fantastic resource for grammar nerds and those who are interested in learning more about the English language. The site includes a glossary with easy-to-follow definitions, articles dedicated to style and punctuation, and a newsletter that readers can easily subscribe to.

Final Thoughts

What have been your experiences with Canadian English? Do you find yourself leaning towards one form of spelling over the other? Comment below and let's start a conversation. And, we say "zed", not "zee".

Next steps: tips on creating a style sheet for your project.

Updated March 15/2021 Dale Youngman

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