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  • Writer's pictureLeah Geller

Is there such a thing as Canadian spelling?

Updated: Aug 2, 2023

Canadians take pride in being distinct from our neighbours to the south. For example, we put a "u" in labour, go to the theatre, write cheques (not checks), and talk about where we've travelled (not traveled).

Some may be tempted to default to British spelling, but that would be a mistake. For example, in Canada we would read an aging encyclopedia, while those in the UK might read an ageing encyclopaedia.

Still, both Canadians and Brits might practise a dance routine, whereas those in the United States would practice it. Yet, all three would set up a medical practice in their community.

Confused? The Language Portal of Canada has an excellent article about the differences between Canadian, American and British spelling, including a chart highlighting the 10 main distinctions.

When in doubt, you can always do a search on the Government of Canada's Writing Tips Plus. The go-to reference book for Canadian spelling is the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, although it has not been updated for almost two decades. Another reliable guide is Editing Canadian English, published by Editors Canada.

Plus, Microsoft Word can now be set to Canadian English. Simply go to "Set Proofing Language" and scroll down to English (Canadian). Then click on "Set as Default."

If you're curious about why Canadian spelling has evolved with these distinctions, I encourage you to check out this fascinating blog post.

In the meantime, I'm travelling to the paddling centre to practise my canoe strokes in the hopes of becoming a licensed guide. Happy summer!

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