Canadian spelling

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Culips is based in Montreal, Canada and so we follow Canadian spelling rules.

Did you know that there are some differences in spelling between America, Canada and Britain? They are small differences that do not affect the pronunciation. Here is a list of the differences in spelling common words and the general rules to follow.

Differences between Canadian and American spelling

Canadian (and British) American
–RE Ending –ER Ending
centre/theatre center/theater
–OUR Ending –OR Ending
colour/favour/behaviour/ neighbour /honour/humour color/favor/behavior/neighbor/honor/humor
L is doubled in –ED or –ING form L is not doubled in –ED or –ING form

Differences between Canadian and British spelling

In some cases the Z is replaced with an S in British spelling. This is often the case when the S/Z follows an I or Y, like in the examples below.

Canadian (and American) British
(and all variations of these word)
(and all variations of these words)
Short for mother with O Short for mother with U
mom/mommy mum/mummy


  1.' Alex says:

    As a Canadian who has taught many years in Korea, I always get the spelling questions from my students. While American spelling seems to be favored (usage size and business reasons), sometimes student are required to know other rules.

    The reality is there really is no “Canadian” spelling. Take away the flag-waving, and really “Canadian English” is a mix of American and British English rules, and rightly so given our shared history with both empires. The Canadian spelling you outlined is really a mirror of the British system, which we adopted much like we did with many elements of the American one. We must work hard not let over-zealous patriotism trump the reality of the system so are students are less confused. I always teach to the goal: if a student needs to work in business, it is American English…If a student requires entrance to a British university, it is British English…And so on. But I never flag-waive for attention when it comes to languages. The students usually see through that quickly.

  2.' Jessie Cox says:

    Hi Alex,

    Thanks for sharing your point of view with us. It’s always nice to hear from teachers who read our blog. I hope you’re finding the materials you get from our website useful in your teaching.

    I totally agree with you that it’s a good idea to teach American spelling to your students who will be speaking English mostly with Americans and British spelling to your students who will be studying in the UK.

    Unfortunately we can’t tailor our website differently for every specific type of student who visits it. Culips is based in Canada, but we have listeners and readers all over the world. Our materials are used by a broad audience of students with many different reasons for learning English. Since we are Canadians and Culips is a Canadian company, we choose to write our website using the spellings that are standard in Canada.

    In general, the material on our site follows the guidelines set out in The Canadian Style: A Guide to Writing and Editing, which is a style guide published by the Canadian government.

    We have no intention of “flag-waving” (showing excessive or fanatical patriotism) and we’re certainly not trying to imply that the English spellings used in Canada are better than forms of English used anywhere else. The intention of this post on Canadian spelling is simply to show our readers some of the ways that certain words are spelled differently than or the same as in the UK and the US. We get many questions from our listeners about this subject, so we thought it would be a good idea to post about why some of the words they see on our website might look strange to someone who is used to seeing either British or American spelling.

    We are definitely not trying to say that the Canadian standard of spelling certain words is better or more correct than any other spelling. After all, the way I pronounce the word “mom” definitely sounds more like “mum” than “mom,” and the way I pronounce the word “centre” sounds much more like “center.” So sometimes Canadian spellings actually make less sense than their British or American counterparts. But English (in any country) is a quirky language full of idiosyncrasies (things that are peculiar or unusual).

    Thanks again for visiting our site and sharing your opinion. I hope you’ll continue contributing your feedback and ideas to the Culips community.

    I’d also be interested to know what other visitors and listeners think about this topic. Do you find the different spellings in different countries frustrating? (I sure do sometimes!) Do you think it’s appropriate for a website that’s based in Canada but has an international audience to use Canadian spellings? Let us know what you think.


  3.' Bruce says:

    I disagree with Alex. There is a spelling error in his statement: “American spelling seems to be favored”, as a Canadian it should be “favoured”. US English is taking hold as people fire up computers and don’t bother changing the US English default that comes with the OS.

    Despite what the student requires – there is definitely a set of rules for Canadian spelling, and it is a mixture of British, US and Canadian specific content, but it is ours.

    One should not confuse the students needs or desires with what exists and Canadian Spelling Rules do exist. By all means teach English as the student requires or wishes. I to use US English or British English where required and to the extent of my knowledge.

    However having two students that are going through the process of immigrating to Canada for business (doctors) I would be amiss if I taught them US English spelling rules. What I do do is give them as many examples of the differences as I can, point them to websites, like this one, so they will be aware of the changes between countries.

    Jessie, like you, I find different spelling frustrating at times and do my best to shrug it off. Please keep this site as it is, a Canadian site with Canadian spelling. However if you do change it, be brave and go for Australian. So we can all go for a walkabout.


  4. An interesting archaic one is font & fount, used in printing. In English spelling it should be ‘fount’ – like fountain pen, I guess – but the US spelling without the u prevails. Numerically everyone seems to use the American billion these days rather than the UK billion (1,000 million rather than one million million). Perhaps I should get out more…

  5.' Peter says:

    Yes I find it frustrating at times when commenting on you-tube and what not second guessing myself when the spell checker says what I wrote a word wrong and wondering is it me did I forget how to spell some words or what.Now that I have found out that it is an actual difference in spelling between the 2 countries. I am Canadian and I thought that my spelling was getting worse but now it all makes sense lol.

  6.' Graham says:

    I disagree regarding the use of z versa s as both American and Canadian (i.e. analyze/organize/criticize vs analyse/organise/criticise). Does anyone remember the old Nelson Canada spellers that were used during the late 1970’s and throughout the 1980’s by many elementary schools? ‘S’ was always preferred over ‘z’. Subsituting ‘z’ for ‘s’ is only a recent phenomenom since the 1990’s with the advent of the internet and the cost ofcomputers dropping too the point most homes can own one. Just as one of the previous posters stated – it’s a result of people not changing the default language from American English or U.S. for their computer’s operating system and any word processing software’s spell checker. I know this from personal and professional experience as an I.T. Worker.

    For me, I cringe whenever I see a ‘z’ instead of an ‘s’

  7.' Tom says:

    I agree with Graham here. It’s not really a case of “In some cases the Z is replaced with an S in British spelling.” but I think it’s almost certainly the other way around.

    I’m not meaning to be pedantic, and perhaps I’m wrong, but weren’t these English words originally spelt with an ‘S’, but in relatively recent years they’ve been changed to use a ‘Z’ in North American usage? Perhaps it was a bug in the early versions of Microsoft Word? 😉


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