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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Americans can get confused writing for Canadians, unless they write in French

 The dual influence of British and American spelling on Canadian English can make life difficult for Canadian writers, and even worse for Americans writing for Canadian readers.

Canadians use standard British spelling for certain words (axe, cheque), and use American spelling for others (connection and tire, not connexion and tyre), and will use either version for other words (programme and program, labour and labor, neighbour and neighbor).

It's important to be consistent so you don't look silly and confuse your readers.

Set up your own style manual (just a list, really), and stick to it. Don't mix "neighbour" with "labor," for example. Choose one pattern or the other and don't vary.

A Canadian dictionary might help, too (is there such a thing?). Word processor spell-checkers (chequers?) may not be much help. My MS Word rejects Brit spelling, and there doesn't seem to be a Canadian or British "language pack" available.

I could tell my PC to accept "programme" and "neighbour," but that would not make it reject "program" and "neighbor." To be safe, I'd probably have to search for all of the offending Americanisms and change them.

Or, I can just keep writing in American and not worry about the smaller countries that speak sort-of the same language. I don't freak out when I encounter British spelling. "Programme" is not as disconcerting as having to convert pounds and shillings.

(Thanks to Dorothy Turner for her work published by the University of Ottawa)

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