American English vs. Canadian English (Spelling Differences)
  • 2-minute read
  • 4th July 2018

American English vs. Canadian English (Spelling Differences)

If you refer to a Canadian person as being a mix of American and English, they will rightly object (albeit politely). But if you describe Canadian English in those terms, you wouldn’t be far from the truth! What does that mean in practice, though? Let us look at some of the spelling differences.

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Spelling Conventions in Canadian English

Canadian English favors a mix of British and American spelling. In Canada, for example, the word “favor” would be spelled “favour,” which is the same as in the UK.

Some key spelling conventions are summarized below. Canadian English:

  • Prefers -ize and -yze word endings (e.g., organize and analyze)
  • Uses -our at the end of some words instead of -or (e.g., colour or favour)
  • Take -re instead of -er at the end of many words (e.g., centre or fibre)
  • Uses -ce instead of –se at the end of some words (e.g., defence or offence)
  • Distinguishes between noun and verb forms of some words (e.g., practice and practise)
  • Doubles the final “l” in words when adding a vowel suffix (e.g., traveller or cancelled)
  • Prefers the British English spelling for terms that contain -ae- or -oe- (e.g. anaesthetic)
  • Uses -ogue instead of -og at the end of certain words (e.g., catalogue)

We can compare some of these spelling conventions in different dialects below.

Canadian English

American English

British English

organize/analyze

organize/analyze

organise/analyse

colour

color

colour

centre

center

centre

defence

defense

defence

practice (noun)

practise (verb)

practice

(noun and verb)

practice (noun)

practise (verb)

traveller

traveler

traveller

anaesthetic

anesthetic

anaesthetic

catalogue

catalog

catalogue

Other Spelling Issues

As you can see, with most of the spellings above, Canadians follow the British example. However, there are also words where Canadian English matches the American English spelling instead. These include:

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  • Tire (spelled “tyre” in British English)
  • Curb (spelled “kerb” in Britain)
  • Aluminum (spelled “aluminium” in British English)

Consequently, it is wise to check any term you’re unsure about when using Canadian English.

Hopefully this has helped you with the basics of Canadian-style spelling. But to make completely sure your writing is suitable for our northern neighbors (or, as a Canadian would say, “neighbours”), send us your document and select Canadian English as your preferred proofreading language.

Comments (8)
rishi
20th October 2020 at 06:49
this was very helpful for me . first of all I didn't know there was Canadian english
    Alexander Martinez
    3rd February 2021 at 17:14
    I feel you bro I just learned it rn in class
      Isaiah Martinez
      23rd March 2021 at 17:51
      I have to second that I never knew that it was spelled differently than the US -Note I am in no way related to Alexander
Maples
28th May 2021 at 17:30
It should be noted we more frequently use accents, e.g., résumé (resume), née (nee), café (cafe), exposé, financée/financé — especially where there might be confusion in pronunciation. And we tend to use -ov instead of -off as well. Although nobody seems to be able to agree on how to spell toque/tuque/touque up here.
    rosemarie crispino
    12th December 2021 at 11:23
    what time is it..in canadian words
Ilene
24th February 2022 at 05:02
Having spent most my life near the border and dealing with various forms of English I just use whatever comes out at the moment. We all manage to understand each other. My college professors did not always agree with my outlook.
peter horwood
13th June 2022 at 05:48
>as being a mix of American and English, they will rightly object (albeit politely) And if the Canadian travels (and sometimes even if not) they will object because you used "American". You see we Canadians ARE American, as are Panamanians, Ticos, Argentinians and Mexicans and dozens of other countries in America/"the Americas". Up here we refer to it being a mix of USA English and British English. Only "Americanized" Canadians, sucked in by that big country to the South, refer to you guys as "American". :)
    Proofed
    13th June 2022 at 09:13
    Ha, fair point, Peter! "American English" is broadly used internationally to mean "US English" (hence our use of it here), but maybe if enough Canadians start a campaign, the more precise "US English" and "United States English" will become the standard terms everywhere.

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