English Dialects: What Is Canadian English?

What Is Canadian English?

Despite the stereotypes, Canadian English is not saying “aboot” instead of “about.” It is actually a unique dialect of its own. But how does it differ from American English? And what do you need to know when using Canadian English in your writing? Check out our guide to find out!

What Is Canadian English?

Sometimes abbreviated to CanE, CE, or en-CA, Canadian English is one of two official languages in Canada (the other is French, which is the first language of 21.3% of Canadians). It includes a set of English dialects used in Canada, but the most common is Standard Canadian English.

Broadly speaking, Canadian English is a mix of British and American English. This reflects the influence that the US and UK have had on Canada.

For example, Canada is a Commonwealth country, reflecting its historic links to the UK. It therefore uses many UK spellings (e.g., using centre instead of center). But Canada is also neighbors with the US, so it has imported vocabulary from American English (e.g., using truck instead of lorry).

The trick to sounding Canadian, then, is knowing when to use British or American English rules.

Differences Between American and Canadian English

Canadian English follows most British spelling, grammar, and punctuation rules. As such, most of the differences between British and American English also apply to Canadian English. However, there are several areas where Canadian and American English overlap, including:

  • Favoring -ize and -yze spellings over -ise and -yse (e.g., organize, analyze)
  • Using US spellings for certain words (e.g., aluminum instead of aluminium)
  • Using US terms over British ones (e.g., gas instead of petrol)
  • Words unique to Canadian English, or Canadianisms, such as garburator (i.e., a waste disposal unit installed under a kitchen sink)

Some US spellings are accepted as variants, too (e.g., color instead of colour). However, the British versions of these terms are more common.

Tips for Using Canadian English in Your Writing

As a general rule, if you are writing for a Canadian audience, you can follow the rules of British English most of the time. However, Canadian English does use US spellings or terms in some cases. There is no strict rule about this, but it is sometimes attributed to Canada’s links to the US.

For instance, Canadians tend to use US terms and spellings for vehicles (e.g., hood instead of bonnet, or tire instead of tyre). And this may be because the US dominates the Canadian automobile market!

More generally, we have a few tips to follow when using Canadian English:

  • If your university or publisher has given you a style guide, check whether it specifies any Canadian spellings or terms.
  • Remember that many dialect terms and phrases are informal. For example, while “Molson muscle” is a uniquely Canadian term, you would not use it in formal writing.
  • Aim for consistency, even when variant spellings are accepted.
  • Check a Canadian dictionary to see whether terms are used in Canada.
  • Use a spellchecker. If you are using Microsoft Word, you can do this by going to Review > Language > Set Proofing Language on the ribbon and selecting “English (Canada).”

Finally, don’t forget to have your work proofread! A professional editor will spot issues that most people would miss, so this is the best way to make sure your writing is always error free.

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