English is a Funny Language

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As I write this post, I am going back and editing my recently published novel, I Was, Am, Will Be Alice, via Grammarly. I do this as a result of a review that claimed I had quite a few errors in my book, which I took as a personal affront, as I freelance as an editor. Grammarly tagged quite a few “errors” that really aren’t errors in the true sense of poor grammar and/or typographical errors (although, admittedly, there were a few, but I could count these on my fingers and still have a few left over). I’ve decided to write this and other posts to set the record straight with respect to grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

Here’s some of what I’ve learned:

OR vs. OUR

Both Canadians and Brits spell words like colour, neighbour, and favour (and a whole host of other words with similar endings) with an extra “u”, probably as a result of our French roots.

L vs. LL

Many words ending in “l” double the letter before adding the ending. Travelling is one of these words (as opposed to “traveling” in American English). There are exceptions to this rule, and “instalment” is one of them, spelled with a single “l” in Canadian but a double “l” (installment) in American. Weird.

The elusive E

It is perfectly acceptable to add an extra “E” in words such as “acknowledgement” and “judgement” in Canadian English (“acknowledgment” and “judgment” in American English respectively). Interestingly enough, the word “jewellery” is the proper, Canadian/British spelling of the American “jewelry”, contrary to what one of my reviewers criticized.

In Canadian English, “insure” tends to refer to issuing and insurance policy, whereas “ensure” means to make sure. Though some sites, like Writer’s Digest,  insist there is a difference, other sites, like The Oxford English Dictionary, say that while the primary meaning for “insure” is the insurance connection, it is sometimes used in American English to mean “to make sure”. It is for this reason that my American clients insist using “insure” throughout.

C vs. S

Many American spellings favour “se” rather than “ce”. Examples of this include “licence” (Canadian) vs. “license” (American); “offence” (Canadian) vs. “offense” (American) ; and “defence” (Candian) vs. “defense” (American).

Commas Inside or Outside of Quotation Marks?

While we’re on the subject of Canadian vs. American, it’s important to note that in American English, the commas and periods go on the inside of quotation marks, while in Canadian and British English, they go on the outside. Note that this does not apply to dialogue. For example,

American: Canadian spellings are frequently tagged by American reviewers as “errors.”

Canadian: Canadian spellings are frequently tagged by American reviewers as “errors”.

Which Came First: The Chicken or the Egg?

“Dialogue”, as it is spelled above, is correct in Canada, with Americans preferring “dialog”. Some websites say that “dialogue” is to be used for conversation and “dialog” for a pop-up box to communicate with a computer. I also read that “dialogue” is gradually being replaced, primarily in America, for the shorter, “dialog”. I have to wonder if the reason the shorter spelling is used for the computer is because dialog boxes originate in the States, and therefore, the American spelling is used. Definitely a chicken or egg scenario.

Interestingly enough, Canadian English distinguishes between “blonde” for a woman with blonde hair, and “blond” for a man. This is largely due to ties with the French, as this is the rule in French grammar. While some sites say that “blond” is common for both men and women, others say “blond” is always used though it is still acceptable to use “blonde” for a woman in Canadian English. I would argue that this is not the case in Canada and that one should always use “blonde” for women, but with such a loosey-gooesy rule, one can hardly call this an error, unless you use “blonde” to refer to a male.

In Conclusion…

Keep in mind that I come at this from a uniquely Canadian perspective. Many of the “errors” Grammarly marked in my manuscript were simply the difference between American and Canadian spellings, and these should not be considered errors. As most of my clients are American, I’ve learned a few things regarding the differences between Canadian, British, and American English, and I’ve learned that one rule does not fit all, and just when you think you have it, there’s an exception to the rule, and you’ve broken it! Much of what I know about spelling American, is recently learned, as to me, spelling Canadian is the norm (and I’d like to think I’m quite good at it, having won more than a few spelling bees in my youth). An American can no more call the Candian and/or British spelling of a word an error, any more than a Canadian or a Brit can call the American spelling an error.–if you’re going to read, and/or review indie books, you simply

The bottom line is, if you’re going to read, and/or review indie books, you simply must be aware of the differences. Hopefully, my posts will help.

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