Canadian, British and American Spelling
 
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Random Spelling of the Day:
Canadian: spelled

American: spelled

British: spelt spelled(var)

Notes:

(Refresh this page for more random spelling words from the database)
Total No. of Spellings: 387

This is mainly a resource for orthographically-challenged Canadians, although others may find it useful too.

As in most matters, Canadian spelling is somewhere on that ill-defined continuum between English and American practices. Also as in most matters, Canadian spelling is a little more flexible than either English or American spelling. While, in general, it is closer to the English, the American variant is sometimes preferred, and often either would be considered acceptable (although the English is still usually considered “more correct”).

It can even be argued that there is a regional bias within Canada: in general terms, Ontario, British Columbia and Newfoundland are usually closer to the British usage, and Albert and the Prairie provinces closer to the American.

Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans tend to stick much more closely with the original English spelling, but Canada is much more swayed by its powerful neighbour to the south. As the influence of the heavily America-centric Internet increases we may see still further inclination towards American practices.

Historically, many of the differences in regional spelling came about (or were at least consolidated) with Samuel Johnson’s “Dictionary of the English Language” of 1755 in Britain and Noah Webster’s “American Dictionary of the English Language” of 1828 in the US. Webster in particular was a vociferous proponent of spelling reform, and an attempt to make an unwieldy and inchoate language a little simpler and more logical.

This web page is specifically concerned with the orthography (or what you and I call ‘spelling’) of words. It does not concern itself with Canadian, British and American vocabulary, or differences in the actual words used. If you need a discussion of the intricacies of whether to use “spanner” or “wrench”, or the difference between an “aubergine” and an “eggplant”, this is not the place to be (just for the record, Canadians tend to side much more with the Americans on most vocabulary issues). There is a reasonably comprehensive coverage of this on the Internet. One good web page which lists English, American and Canadian vocabulary can be found at the British, Canadian and American Vocabulary page of Karen’s Linguistics Issues website, for instance.

Nor is it intended to cover the vagaries of regional grammar usage, such as the “got” / ”gotten” dichotomy, “write me” vs. “write to me”, the American tendency to include a period (full stop) after contractions like Dr., Mr., etc., etc.

Please feel free to contact me about any words, spellings, or anything else on this webpage that you feel is incorrect, misleading, or just plain not working.

TIP:
If you use Microsoft Word for your word processing, make sure the Language is set to 'English(Canada)', not the default 'English(U.S.)', so that the spell-checker uses Canadian spelling not American:
Tools > Language > Set Language > English(Canada)

Main References:
 

  • Oxford Guide to Canadian English Usage
  • New Fowler’s Modern English Usage
  • Eric Partridge’s Usage and Abusage
  • Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage
  • Karen’s Linguistics Issues
  • Dave’s VN7CNV Truly Canadian Dictionary of Canadian Spelling