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I'm having some writing done for a website aimed at a Canadian audience. In order to leverage our resources more, I'd like to focus on American English or British English.

So, is written Canadian English closer to American English or British English?


Note: My current understanding is that Canadians tend to use American vocabulary but British spelling, except for certain -ize words (in which case they use the American spelling). How accurate is this understanding?

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  • I'm no expert, but from my perspective as an American it seems about right. Note that Most of Canada's population is within reception range of US broadcast media, so converging vocabulary seems like a logical outcome. They do of course have a lot of their own unique Canadian words too.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 0:41
  • Thanks for your response! Makes sense! The biggest catch is that I'd like to have the text come off feeling as "native" as possible. That's probably not 100% possible (given the two choices - UK and US), but it sounds like US might be "closer".
    – rinogo
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 0:48
  • As such, Canadian English and American English can be classified together as North American English, emphasizing the fact that the vast majority of outsiders, even from other English speaking countries, cannot distinguish Canadian English from American English by sound. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_English
    – user66974
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 5:02
  • @Josh61 Except when they are speaking French!
    – WS2
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 6:26
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    @Josh61 - Please re-read the question - I am referring specifically to written English. And my concern is appealing to Canadians themselves, who certainly do know how they tend to spell words, what words they choose to use, etc. :)
    – rinogo
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 16:09

3 Answers 3

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Your understanding is correct. They have strong connections with England. (Canadians still have the queen's picture of some of their bank notes). Due to the proximity as well as the Media influence, the language is pretty much American.

Lately, even the pronunciation of some words has been changing. For example, "schedule". Years ago, the tendency was to pronounce it with the sound of a 'k', as "skedule". It's been changing over the years. There seems to be a liking or even an admiration for BrE.

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    I assume you mean changing to the more BE "shedule"
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 1:41
  • They even say "whilst"! Your best bet is to listen to lots of CBC podcasts. Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 4:40
  • One resource that made the decision firm in my mind is the comments at searchenginepeople.com/blog/…. It appears that 1. Not even Canadians agree on how to spell things, and 2. Full US English spellings are tolerated in Canada, and even often used by Canadians themselves. As an American (and not a Brit), it's much easier for me to use US English spellings, so it's kind of a slam dunk. For our needs, written US English is a better fit than written UK English for a Canadian market.
    – rinogo
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 19:11
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    @rinogo: Your link is interesting. So as you know, the spelling is mostly British. We do get New York Times supplement with our local daily for an extra cost. Therefore, AmE won't look strange for the Canadian public.
    – Sankarane
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 21:03
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    Regarding your statement: "Canadians still have the queen's picture on their bank notes": does that imply that it's there because of historical reasons? If it does please note that her picture is there because she's the queen of Canada, and not simply because it was forgotten there :). Commented Sep 22, 2015 at 19:33
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As a Canadian, I can firmly tell you that we use a wide blend of British and American spelling/pronunciation. Basically, any word in English derived from French that ends in '-or' or '-er' usually keeps the British spelling (think colour, honour, and centre) but it isn't unusual to see the American spelling for these words. We do spell a lot of things the American way, liked using '-ed' endings instead of '-t' for conjugated verbs (like 'burnED cookies' versus 'burnT cookies'), but I've seen people write with both endings. Endings with '-ize' are a little more complicated, because we tend to use both interchangeably and it depends on the person writing and their preferences and tendencies.

Really, when it comes down to it, we Canadian's aren't too picky. In elementary and high school teachers tend to favour the British spelling of words, but otherwise, it doesn't particularly matter to us. Written English is written English; we understand it whether you use American or British spelling. Use whichever spelling you'd like - I know that I use a healthy mix of both.

(And yes, we have 10-story buildings and 10-storey buildings. It depends on who's writing the words, but I personally use 'storey'.)

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  • Well and simply said. [sigh]
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 16, 2018 at 16:49
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The correct answer, from a Canadian, is British English. We spell a lot of words, such as colour, with a "u". In America they don't. We also spell centre not center

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  • Just curious, in Canada, do you have 10-story buildings or 10-storey buildings?
    – cobaltduck
    Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 18:40

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