Canadian and American Spelling: Your Guide from H to P

Language & Editing

Variety Is the Spice of Life

It's hard to believe that a whole month has gone by since we posted the first part of our Canadian and American spelling list! As before, we're using the Canadian Oxford Dictionary for Canadian spelling and Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary for American spelling. Once again, you'll notice that some words are spelled the same in both systems.

 

And here a confession: we're relying heavily on the Editors' Association of Canada's excellent book Editing Canadian English, which casts the net even wider, using five different dictionaries: in addition to the two just named, they also provide spellings from Gage, Nelson, and Concise Oxford. These comparisons provide a fascinating glimpse into the malleability of our ever-evolving language.

Shun Scattershot Spelling!

As you’ve no doubt heard many times, no one spelling system is correct to the exclusion of others, but once you’ve chosen which one you’re going to use, you need to stick to it. Consistency is one of the copyeditor’s “Five Cs” (correctness, consistency, clarity, conciseness, and completeness), so when we’re creating the style sheet for a new project, the choice of dictionary is right at the top.

Practise! (CDN) Practice! (US)

In the following text, identify the type of spelling. If it’s American, change it to Canadian; if it’s Canadian, change it to American. You can find all the words that need changing in this chart and the previous one.

 

It was a dark and stormy night. Cecilia sat in the parlor in her pajamas, languorously leafing through her favorite dictionary. Tuesday’s visit to the colorist had given her hair an appealing luster, although, as she admitted with candor, this forestallment of the inevitable couldn’t go on forever. She thought wistfully of her neighbor Gary’s mustache, which, once so marvelous, was now no more than a meager gray tuft. But she reminded herself that harboring such thoughts benefited no one; surely demeanor and behavior were more important than mere aesthetics?

 

 

*See also the following blogs:

Karen Kemlo, "American versus Canadian Spelling: It All Started with Noah" (April 21, 2014)

Kaci Schmitt, "An American Editor in the Land of the Canadian Oxford" (March 25, 2015) 

 

 

CANADIAN

AMERICAN

harbour

harbor

hemorrhage

hemorrhage

honour

honor

honourable

honorable

humour

humor

humorist

humorist

humorous

humorous

imperilled

imperiled

install

install

instalment

installment

instill

instill

judgment

judgment

labour

labor

laborious

laborious

languor

languor

libellous

libelous

licence (noun)

license (noun)

license (verb)

license (verb)

likeable

likable

liquor

liquor

livable

livable

lustre

luster

lustrous

lustrous

manoeuvre

maneuver

marshalled

marshaled

marvellous

marvelous

meagre

meager

medieval

medieval

meter (device)

meter (device)

metre (measurement)

meter (measurement)

mitre

miter

mould

mold

moustache

mustache

neighbour

neighbor

ochre

ocher

odour

odor

odorous

odorous

offence

offense

orthopaedic

orthopedic

paralyze

paralyze

parlour

parlor

pedalled

pedaled

pediatric

pediatric

plow

plow

practice (noun)

practice (noun)

practise (verb)

practice (verb)

pretense

pretense

program

program

prophecy (noun)

prophecy (noun)

prophesy (verb)

prophesy (verb)

pyjamas

pajamas

 

Answer:

The text was spelled American-style. Here’s the Canadian version. (Yes, some of the words are spelled the same in both versions.)

It was a dark and stormy night. Cecilia sat in the parlour in her pyjamas, languorously leafing through her favourite dictionary. Tuesday’s visit to the colourist had given her hair an appealing lustre, although, as she admitted with candour, this forestalment of the inevitable couldn’t go on forever. She thought wistfully of her neighbour Gary’s moustache, which, once so marvellous, was now no more than a meagre grey tuft. But she reminded herself that harbouring such thoughts benefited no one; surely demeanour and behaviour were more important than mere aesthetics