Proudly Canadian?

Having been educated in Canada, we learned proper Canadian spelling (years ago!) but were influenced by an onslaught of American writing since. We teeter on the precipice between the Motherland and Big Brother. Our spellcheck program may be loyal to one country and Grammarly to another. (What do those squiggly red lines under some words mean anyway?) Make sure the language tool on your word processor is set to your language of choice.

When you’re confused or not committed, you sometimes write something one way and other times another way. I see it all the time when I’m editing the writing of Canadians. I have to ask them if they want American spelling or Canadian spelling. How do they decide?

As Canadians we have language flexibility—we can go either way. Although most of our language tends to lean toward our British heritage, we’ve adapted to our neighbour’s changes, because … they’re just easier: Americans took out some unnecessary extra letters while maintaining the integrity of the word. So, it doesn’t really matter if you travelled or you traveled, we all know you went somewhere.

Understand your market: who is your reader? If you’re submitting an article, story or book to an American magazine or publisher, use American spelling. If you’re posting something on your own website or self-publishing, do whatever you want. But, if you’re a children’s books author, it is imperative that you be loyal to your native education as the institutions that taught you (schools and libraries) will not accept traitors. You may lose your largest market by not complying.

If you are an immigrant or expat living in Canada, I completely understand your desire to use American spelling or the English language preferences of your own country—whether it was ESL or you’re from a (former) British colony.

So what’s it going to be? Are you going to satisfy a large chunk of your readership by succumbing to the American way or will you write and publish as a proud Canadian? Honestly, your reader will get over your use of the double ‘l’ and the extra ‘u’. I suggest you keep the “you” in honour.

Whatever you choose, know why you’re doing it, do it correctly, and be consistent.

This website has a comparative chart that is an excellent resource.

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