Writers' Ink at Caledon Public Library

Some Good Guides to Canadian English Usage

It can be confusing being a writer in Canadian English. Writers are readers and the quantity of literature in the English language is unparalleled. Much of it is in American English. This includes output from Canadian publishers who increasingly seem to believe breaking into the much larger American market requires pandering to their nativist prejudices. The second largest output is from the British Isles. Then we have books in the distinct Englishes of the Commonwealth Antipodes, the English Caribbean, the former British Africa and the Indian subcontinent.

Since Canadian English uses largely (but not entirely) British English spellings but is spoken with an American-sounding accent and uses much terminology that offshore English speakers associate with the USA, it can be tough to develop a feel to one’s written language that can be said to be distinctively Canadian. As an occasional editor I too often confront a mixture of Canadian and American spellings in the same piece, and even US items set in a Canadian context (e.g. “precinct’ instead of “district” when referring to police organization; ‘attorney’ instead of ‘solicitor”).

There are tools available to keep us along the straight-and-narrow when it comes to authenticity. Some are pictured below. As a non-native I find the one pictured above, “Guide to Canadian English Usage”, especially useful. All deserve to be more widely used.

P.S. While incorporating dialect that is not your own can be a literary graveyard, to add a drop or two to spice a piece up there is help to be had. Two dialect dictionaries I like are VLB Editeur’s “Dictionnaire de la langue quebecoise” (compiled by Leandre Bergeron) and HarperCollins “Pocket Scots Dictionary”.

Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage
Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage
Paperback Oxford Canadian Dictionary
Oxford Canadian Dictionary
Writing English: The Canadian Handbook
Writing English: The Canadian Handbook
by Ian Keith Anderson

About Alton Chapter

The Alton Chapter of Writers' Ink meets the 1st Wednesday of the month from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the Alton Branch.

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This entry was posted on December 21, 2018 by in Writing Advice and tagged , , , , , , .

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