Struggles with British, American, and Canadian English
As I review and revise my writing to ensure correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation, I am sometimes overwhelmed and confused. Grammar and punctuation have always been tricky for me. My Grade 9 English class, in which grammar was a large part of the curriculum, went through three teachers. One had a breakdown, one was a drunk, and I don’t remember anything about the third. This resulted in a crucial gap in my learning. But it is more than that causing my confusion. I struggle because I am Canadian.
Like so much of the Canadian psyche, our spelling, grammar, and punctuation is a mix of British and American. We use the British spelling of words like colour and harbour, not the American color and harbor. We use the British spelling of words like centre and theatre, not the American center and theater. Yet we use the American spelling of words like organization, not the British organisation.
Canadian punctuation seems to align more closely with American punctuation than with British. For example, we put the comma or period inside the quotations, not outside. I’m less clear on where we stand grammatically. I did some research online about grammatical differences among British, American, and Canadian English and became more confused. Examples of British and American grammar both sounded correct to me. Is that because Canadian usage is a blend or because of my educational gap? I am equally comfortable with “she’s eaten too much” and “she ate too much”, or with “she’s just left” and “she just left”. In my everyday speech, I tend to use the American wording and say “she ate too much”.
Different editions of printed books are published in each country, with editing done to account for the variations in spelling, vocabulary, grammar, and punctuation. But what happens when you’re writing for the Internet? My blog audience is primarily Canadian. What does an American think when he/she stumbles across my blog and sees the Canadian spellings? Because I am currently wintering in Arizona, I may be more aware of the differences. Should I be using American spelling while I am here?
I consciously write Canadian English, at least as I understand it, and try to be consistent. However, there is a good chance I have unconsciously picked up Americanisms. Grammar and spelling, as well as other cultural influences, seep across the border. It is becoming more common to see some American spellings, especially the “or” versus “our” as in color, in Canada.
I toyed with the idea of writing a blog post where I deliberately used a combination of Canadian, American, and British English to see who would notice and whether I’d receive any comments or corrections. I didn’t do it, so if you find that combination in this post, it’s just my confused Canadian identity.
Do these differences cause you any confusion? Do you notice the differences?