In the early 1800`s, a man by the name of Noah Webster Americanized the spelling of many words. There are now a number of differences between how Canadians and Americans spell certain words.

It is important to keep these differences in mind when blogging. If you're blogging primarily for Canadians, then use the Canadian spelling. If blogging for Americans, use the U.S. spelling. If you're blogging for both, then keep in mind that the U.S. population is roughly 10 times that of Canada.

The following is a list of common spelling differences between Canadian and American words:

CanadaUnited States
abridgementabridgment
acknowledgementacknowledgment
amoebaameba
analyseanalyze
anaesthesiaanesthesia
arbourarbor
axeax
barrelledbarreled
behaviourbehavior
belabourbelabor
brunettebrunet
calibrecaliber
cataloguecatalog
cancelledcanceled
candourcandor
centrecenter
centimetrecentimeter
chequecheck
colourcolor
clamourclamor
crystallinecrystaline
cruellercruelest
crystallizecrystalize
defencedefense
dialoguedialog
aeoneon
favourfavor
favouritefavorite
fervourfervor
fibrefiber
flavourflavor
fuelledfueled
fulfilfulfill
funnelledfunneled
gaugegage
goitregoiter
greygray
gruellinggrueling
harbourharbor
honourhonor
humourhumor
jewellerjeweler
instalmentinstallment
imperilledimperiled
kilometrekilometer
labourlabor
labelledlabeled
labourlabor
levelledleveled
licencelicense
litreliter
louvrelouver
lustreluster
macabremacaber
manoeuvremaneuver
marvellousmarvelous
mattematt
medallistmedalist
meagremeager
metremeter
millimetremillimeter
mitremiter
modelledmodeled
mouldmold
moultmolt
moustachemustache
neighbourneighbor
paeanpean
paleolothicpalaeolothic
panelled/panellingpaneled/paneling
parlourparlor
practice (n) practise(v)practice (n/v)
pummelledpummeled
pyjamaspajamas
odourodor
rancourrancor
raquetracket
reconnoitrereconnoiter
saleablesalable
savoursavor
sceptrescepter
smouldersmolder
sombresomber
sulphatesulfate
sulphursulfur
tonneton
totalledtotaled
tranquillizetranquilize
tumourtumor
travellertraveler
tunnelledtunneled
theatretheater
vicevise
valourvalor
vapourvapor
vigourvigor
wilfulwillful
worshippedworshiped
queueingqueuing

* please note: "tonne" is metric = 1,000 kilograms = ~2,200 pounds and "ton" is imperial = 2,000 pounds.

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27 Responses to “Canadian / American Spelling Differences … Does Your Blog Speak to the Proper Market?”

  1. Very interesting read, i knew Americans and English language varies in that, some words are different or mean the same thing just spelt differently. For example colour is English and color is American.
    Very good table too.

  2. Because I read a lot of British writers when I was young, I tend to favor British/Canadian spelling for some words. Going down your list, I'm probably 15% Canadian :-)

  3. Mostly people give priority to American spelling for such words as "color" instead of listing it under the Canadian spelling of "colour." Some people say to just use a British dictionary; however, Canadian spelling is different in many cases.You had done nice comparison.

  4. Chris says:

    Not surprisingly, Canadian English is pretty close to British English. Increasingly (alas, I'm English) US English = International English so, unless your market is NOT international I regretfully recommend you stick with US English.

    • John says:

      Unfortunately US English is not international standard and is only preferred in most (not even all) parts of the US and it's territories and SE Asian economies looking for increased US trade. British English is the international standard in more countries and far more people are taught UK English as a second language or a first across the globe than US English including India, all of Europe excluding parts of Germany (due to strong Cold War US influence) and even a great deal of some Asian countries. For that matter former member of the Empire or current member of the Commonwealth in Africa, the Americas Asia, Europe, the Middle East etc all use UK English. US hegemony does not in and of itself equate US spelling dominance. Regardless the article is about using appropriate spelling variants when appropriate and thus when writing in Canada or for Canadians you spell Canadian. I believe the expression "When in Rome" applies here.

    • Albert D. says:

      If U.S. English is not the international standard, its spelling differences can certainly be found mixed in with English almost everywhere. (i.e. "color," "center," etc.)

      As for Canadian English being very similar to British English, I'm not sure this is the case. I am Canadian, and it is definitely the least similar to British English of any Commonwealth country. Yes, Canada ends certain words with "-our" instead of "-or" and doubles the consonants on many words that are not doubled in the U.S., but almost all "Americanism" words are just as much Canadian, and really are "North Americanisms." There are many British slangs and expressions that I do not even understand, while I understand most used in the U.S. (and, by extension, Canada).

      Additionally, I know of many Canadians who entirely write with U.S. spellings. Perhaps this is the result of them growing up with their spellchecks set to U.S. English, but it is interesting to note.

  5. Well, brutal honesty compels me to note that far too many people can't spell very well anyway, so in practice you can probably mix and match as you please :-)

  6. I had never considered how these discrepancies in spelling might effect a markets entire perception nor that the differences between Canadian and American spelling were so great.

  7. David Millar says:

    This table interests me because as someone from the United States, I personally use some of the spellings from the Canada column rather than the US column, especially in the case of matte and grey. Grey is a word that I've seen spelled both ways, but I have never seen matte spelled without the E.

  8. Cool Gifts says:

    Awesome list. I've always wondered home many of these differences exist. This is a great resource. Thanks.

  9. Mark C says:

    Although I'm English, I wish that someone would modernise (or is it 'modernize'?) the way we spell. It is so silly that here even we can't get to grips with license and practise being verbs and licence and practice being nouns. And why the silly 'u' in words like colour and favourite? We even put double L in things like travelled when travel has only one! No wonder foreigners find it hard learning English, when we struggle to learn how to spell ourselves.
    With the internet demolishing international boundaries, I favour a single, standardised English. If this were based on logic and usage – despite being proudly British! – I would have to go with the U.S. version.

    • Dina says:

      Nooo! British English is the original, and so it is the most proper. I am neither British nor Canadian or American, and yeah as a foreigner I struggled to learn the spelling of many words, but seriously the standard should be British spelling not American. It´s like the differences in the Spanish spoken in Latin America and that of Spain…. it doesnt matter which country has the most inhabitants the original will always be more proper.

  10. Bob Brewer says:

    Just a comment on your chart. You have listed "tonne" and "ton" as different spellings. Actually they are different things – "tonne" is metric = 1,000 kilograms = ~2,200 pounds and "ton" is imperial = 2,000 pounds.

  11. Albert D. says:

    I have one comment to make on your list. I live in Toronto, Canada, and have never seen "analyze" spelled with an "s" in this country. I realize that both spellings are correct, but is the "s version" not more British?

    • Jeff Quipp says:

      Great question Albert. It seems we Canadians get very confused being wedged between those who the language is named after, and the superpower to the south. We tend to interchange the spellings, but the correct Canadian spelling is indeed "analyse".

  12. Albert D. says:

    I'm afraid I must respectfully disagree with you on this, at least on the fact that the "s" spelling is the only correct Canadian one. Every other chart I can find indicates the "z" version to be the Canadian spelling, including this chart published by a major textbook publisher: http://media.wiley.com/product_ancillary/09/04704108/DOWNLOAD/US%20vs%20Brit%20and%20Can%20spellings.pdf

    I've also found (anecdotally) the "z" spelling to be far more common. I usually find the author's origin to be British whenever I see it spelled otherwise.

    Anyway, this is just what I've noticed. Thanks for your fast reply.

  13. Jose says:

    I was born and raised in Texas but often find myself spelling things the Canadian way even if I have never read anything British and my neighbourhood I live in has mix of races. Weired, often get corrected.

    • Ruud Hein says:

      I learned British English in the Netherlands. Living in Canada now you'd expect me to stay the course but in many cases I lean towards the US spelling for two reasons. One, software often speaks US English:) Two, although we're writing for a Canadian audience here we have a ton of US readers too — and audience size & keyword matches matter.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, Jose.

  14. [...] be massive misunderstandings in newspapers, but grammar is totally adaptable and flexible. Even so, Canadians will insist that neighbour is spelled with a u, because that's what the British intended, but it doesn't really matter. [...]

  15. juststacy says:

    I sought out this list because I'm a speller with doubt. I think I know how to spell a word, am certain I had the correct spelling in my mind, but spell check is pretty sure I had it wrong! I'm Canadian, surrounded by French signs and labeling with shared spelling of many words. Spell check just makes it all the more confusing for me! I know I'm not the only one! :) I really wish that I could find a spell check that was Canadian so that I can get rid of the present 'doubt-check' that leaves me feeling like a poor speller.

    Honestly, someone tell me if there is an U.S./ Canadian thing happening with the spelling of all words that end up said counsellor because that one BAFFLES me(spell check underlined it, had to google to be sure. frig it's tiring!)! Perhaps I just don't know how to spell at all, but I need someone to iron it all out for me!

  16. Dean Gregory says:

    Hello

    I checked into your site to determine an appropriate spelling for litre in Canada. Of course, I took the opportunity to check the other words in your list. I was disappointed to see "analyse" noted as the Canadian spelling. As a native born Canadian (47 years old) – I have to tell you that I had never seen this spelling use in Canada – anywhere. That is, untill spell check. I can only assume that someone (perhaps British) decided that "analyze" was not the Canadian spelling. A competing site recognizes that while "analyse" and the like are not unknown in Canada – "analyze" and the like are more common. Perhaps peoples' relicance on spell check will change this fact – as it seems to have done in some newspapers. In general, I find it sad that spell check will have the consequence of creating static in the evolution of our landguage.

    Best to you

    Dean

  17. Don says:

    Not sure if this was written by a Canadian, but there are a few mistakes in here. Small things, but I've never known anyone to spell the Louvre the "Louver",or gauge -"gage". I think maybe Canadians may use too many U's. You can throw those around as recklessly as you like, but that doesn't give Canada the right to just start deleting ours.

    and queuing or queueing aside, we dont Queu. Americans "Wait In Line". Semper Fi.

  18. RK Henderson says:

    Jumping in with a historical fact, and a professional observation.

    First, it wasn't Webster that pulled Yankese away from Canehjen; the fact is, Canadian English was rapidly becoming American in the early 19th century, thanks to massive immigration into Canada from the States. (This is also why Canadians say "store" instead of "shop" and "vacation" instead of "holiday".) Prominent Canadian cultural authorities intentionally re-established some British norms as standard, most notably -our and -re words, partly for patriotic reasons, and partly because Americanisms are almost always normalised errors, and therefore represented a "dumbing-down" of Canadian discourse.

    However, given the saturation of Canada by American culture, Canadian English has become increasingly Americanised. The matter is greatly exacerbated by the fact that there are no national standards for these things in Canada; no Canadian equivalent of the MLA, for example, and few Canadian dictionaries available for software. (Example: I have to run the Australian dictionary in Word.)

    When I first immigrated to Canada from the States as a professional writer, this lack of standards drove me nuts. After receiving a dozen shoulder-shrugs to my requests for reliable Canadian authority, I said "screw it" and went full-on British. (As you can see from this comment.) It irks some Canadians (Yank-wannabes, mostly) and all Americans, and so is well worth any inconvenience.

    Thoughtful post!

    Robin

    Rusty Ring: Reflections of an Old-Timey Hermit

  19. Merve says:

    Good table, but a number of mistakes. "Centre" is a diferrent word than "center." In Canada, we use "centre" to refer to a place, eg., "shopping centre". But to indicate the center of something, e.g., a circle, we use "center.

    "Crueller" and "cruelest" are diferrent words, each with its own meaning.

    In my 63 years in Canada, I have never seen "meter" spelled "metre."

    Still, your list is a good reference.

    Merve

  20. Gosh I didn't realize what a minefield this was, surely the correct way of spelling English would be the English way(clue in the names) which appears the same as the Canandian way, they being wonderful members of the commonwealth. I've found that Americans speak a form of English, similar to the Brazilains speak a kind of Portuguese but their own adapted version. I came on here doing research after an American had given me a lecture on my spelling, I'm English with a co.uk blog so of course I'm writing in English, he didn't like that I used u in colour and humour etc.I ignore my american spell checker also. My old English teacher will be turning in her grave!

  21. Allistair says:

    I prefer to spell the "Canadian way" and I go with the UK English when I am in doubt.

    However, I wish the English language was "better" designed like, say, Spanish (from Spain), in which the sound that a letter makes (or do not make) is always (or almost always?) the same. This would allow a "logical" mind to spell more correctly, even when hearing a word for the first time.

    As for "US English" it seems to me that some words are spelt (or spelled) with "logic" and "simplicity" in mind, like spelling "colour" as (simply) "color". As a "logical" person, I tend to agree with the apparent "logic" and "simplicity".

    However, spelling "cheque" (a bank/money "order") as "check", might have been due to "dumbness" rather than "logic/simplicity", and especially so because the word "check" already exists for something else.

    Finally, the list is a very good effort (thanks!). If all (obvious) errors/mistakes are already removed from the list, it is also a very good reference.