Canadian Spelling: It’s Complicated!

May 2023

An editor colleague recently asked in an online editors’ group about how to direct a client to information about Canadian spelling. Like a good number of Canadian editors, I shake my head with frustration: It’s complicated.

Canadian English is sometimes presented as half British, half American, but inconveniently neither. However, the real issue is that Canadian English is a thing of its own, drawing on different traditions, and with its own unique words but without a core reference that is regularly updated.

Here are some sources and commentaries.

While the Canadian Oxford Dictionary and CP’s Caps and Spelling might not be available to clients, clients might appreciate an easy-to-access article about Canadian spelling by a Canadian editor (Virginia St-Denis) in the Language Portal of Canada and this page.

Some editors might turn to an online source such “Dave VE7CNV’s Truly Canadian Dictionary of Canadian Spelling,” but I question if it is current. I prefer to stick to CanOx2 and Caps and Spelling as authoritative sources and then keep a careful style sheet.

And for those wondering why there is no updated dictionary of Canadian English, well, it’s a big question and one that is being worked on. This CBC article from 2022 gets into some of the details.

© Laura Edlund 2010