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Canadian English Style Guide

Grammar and Colloquialism Guide

Canadian English is a blend of both British and American English language rules due to Canada’s close proximity to the United States and because it is a member of the British Commonwealth. Canadian English also consists of many unique terms called Canadian-isms (slang terms used only in Canada). Refer to this basic style guide when writing or editing a text for Canadian English.


  • Use “favourite,” “colour,” “honour,” and “labour” (the –our suffix opposed to the American –or).
  • When adding suffixes to –our words, it is customary to drop the first “u” (“humorous” not “humourous” and “honorary” not “honourary”).
  • Use “centre” and “theatre” (the –re suffix opposed to the American –er).
  • Use “strategize”, “paralyze” and “recognize” (the –ize / -yze suffix opposed to the British –ise / -yse). This rule also applies to American English.
  • Double the last consonant when adding suffixes. Ex. Use “travelling” “worshipped” and “cancelled” (the –ell / -epp suffixes opposed to the American –el / -ep). However, “profiting” does not apply to this rule for British or Canadian English.
  • Use “practice / practise”, defence / defense” and “licence / license” (the –ice / -ence suffix applies to some nouns replacing the American –ise / –ense, while –ise / -ense applies to the matching verbs as in British English). However, “advice” and “advise” are universal.
  • Use “catalogue” (the –ogue suffix opposed to the American –og).
  • Use “program” (the –gram suffix replacing the British –gramme). This rule also applies to American English.
  • Use “cheque” (the –que suffix opposed to the American –k or –ck).
  • Use “judgement” (the –dge opposed to the American –dg).
  • Use “tire” (the –ire suffix opposed to the British –yre). This rules also applies to American English.
  • Use “grey” (the –ey suffix opposed to the American –ay).
  • Use “aluminum” (the –num suffix opposed to the British –nium). This rule also applies to American English.

Units of Measurement

  • Celsius – used when referring to weather temperature (unlike “Fahrenheit” in America).
  • Fahrenheit – used when referring to cooking temperature (A mix of both Celsius and Fahrenheit temperatures are widely used and displayed throughout the country.)
  • Feet / Inches – used when measuring height. (However, centimetres and metres are used in most medical documentation.)
  • Inches (ie. 8.5” x 11”) / Letter / Legal – used when referring to paper sizes (opposed to the American “millimeters” or “A4” size).
  • Kilometres – used when referring to travel speed (not “miles” as in America).
  • L/100 km – used when measuring fuel (opposed to the American “miles per gallon”).
  • Pounds / Ounces – used when measuring weight. (However, kilograms and grams are used in most medical documentation.)
  • Square Feet – used when measuring property (opposed to the American “yards” or “acres”).

Education Terminology

  • College – refers to community college where one earns a diploma or a certificate
  • Frosh – refers to first-year college or university students.
  • Frosh Week – refers to the week before post-secondary classes start when first-year students have parties, events and new-student orientation.
  • Grade 1, Grade 2, etc. (not “first grade”, “second grade” as in America).
  • Grade 9, Grade 10, etc. or first year, second year, etc. (not “freshman”, “sophomore”, “junior”, “senior” as in America).
  • Grades / Marks – Both the American and British terms are used.
  • Kindergarten – refers to the grade before Grade 1. (Or Junior Kindergarten / Senior Kindergarten when it consisted of two consecutive years.)
  • Principal – refers to the head of the school.
  • University – refers to a Canadian university where one earns a degree or PhD (“University” does not apply to both college and university as in America).
  • Vice-Principal – refers to the Principal’s assistant (not “assistant principal” as in America).

Canadian-isms (Only in Canada):

  • Aboriginal Peoples – First Nations, Inuit and Metis people combined
  • As well – (opposed to “in addition” in America. However, in addition is also used)
  • Beaver / Whale Tails – fried dough pastry with multiple toppings shaped in a beaver or whale tail
  • Buck and Doe / Stag and Doe –a party where entry tickets, raffle tickets and alcohol are sold to raise money for the wedding of an engaged couple
  • Cheesies –cheese puffs or cheese sticks (a snack)
  • Chesterfield – (opposed to “sofa” in America)
  • Converter – (opposed to “remote control” in America)
  • Double Double – popular coffee with two cream and two sugar
  • Eavestrough – (opposed to “rain gutter” in America)
  • Eh? – used as in “Don’t you agree?” or “Huh?”
  • First Nations – Aboriginal people (opposed to “Native Americans” or “American Indians” in America)
  • Freezie – frozen sugar-water snack
  • Camping – staying in a tent in the woods or at a campground
  • Camp – children’s summer camps
  • Chinook – a warm wind that blows from east to west during late winter to early spring
  • Homogenized Milk / Homo Milk – (opposed to “whole milk” in America)
  • Housecoat – (opposed to “bathrobe” in America)
  • Humidex – the measurement of heat and humidity combined
  • Hydro – Canadian electricity
  • Knapsack / Bookbag – (opposed to “backpack” in America)
  • Kraft Dinner / KD – a popular dry macaroni and cheese mix
  • Loonie – the Canadian one-dollar coin
  • May Two-four– the first long week-end of the summer (on or around May 24th)
  • Mickey – a flask of hard liquor
  • Peameal / Back Bacon – (opposed to “Canadian Bacon” in America)
  • Pencil Crayon – (opposed to “colored pencil” in America)
  • Poutine – french fries topped with gravy and cheese curds
  • Runners / Running Shoes – (opposed to “sneakers” in America)
  • Serviette – a paper napkin
  • Smarties – popular candy covered chocolate pieces (similar to “M&M’s” in America)
  • Statutory Holidays / Stats – Public holidays legislated by both the national and provincial government
  • Texas Mickey – a 3L bottle of hard liquor
  • The States or The U.S. – the United States of America
  • Tims – Tim Hortons, a popular Canadian coffee shop
  • Toonie – the Canadian two-dollar coin
  • Toque – a knitted winter hat, often with a pom-pom on top
  • Twenty–sixer – a 750 ml bottle of hard liquor
  • Two–four – a twenty-four bottle case of beer
  • Washroom – (opposed to “restroom” in America)
  • Zed (for the letter Z) – (opposed to “Zee” in America)

For even more Canadian-isms, visit the site of CMU.


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