Skip to main content

8.1 "Our" rule

For words of more than one syllable in which the "u" is not pronounced, Canadian authorities have adopted the "our" spelling as the standard. The following is a quick reference list for "our" words.

  • armour
  • labour but laborious
  • behaviour
  • neighbour
  • colour
  • odour but odorous
  • demeanour
  • rigour but rigorous
  • endeavour
  • rumour
  • favour, favourite, favourable
  • saviour
  • flavour
  • valour but valorous
  • harbour
  • vapour but vaporous
  • honour, honourable, honoured but honorary
  • vigour but vigorous
  • humour but humorous
  • but tremor (no 'u')

8.2 The double "L"

The following is a list of common words that can challenge even the best spellers with the double "L" conundrum.

  • compel, compelled, compelling
  • counsel, counsellor, counselling
  • enrol, enrolled, enrolment
  • fulfil, fulfilled, fulfilment, fulfilling
  • install, instalment, installation, installing
  • marvel, marvelled, marvelous
  • signal, signalled, signalling
  • total, totalled
  • travel, traveller, travelling
  • tranquil, tranquillize

8.3 Truly Canadian words

The following is a list of words and their accepted Canadian spelling.

  • centre, centred, centring
  • cheque (as a method of payment)
  • theatre
  • sulfur (scientific standard spelling)
  • pretence
  • grey (colour)
  • program
  • defence
  • practice (as a noun or adjective)
  • organize
  • practise (as a verb)

8.4 Common mistakes

There are a number of words that are misspelled or misused, or both, on a regular basis.

  • affect/effect
    • use affect to mean act upon, influence or imitate; use effect to mean cause, make possible accomplish or complete.
  • analyze/analyse
    • interchangeable but analyze is preferable.
  • compliment/complement
    • an expression of praise; the quantity or number needed to make up a whole.
  • composing/comprising
    • composing is to make or create by putting together (composed of A, B and C); comprising is consisting of (comprising A, B and C).
  • councillor/counsellor
    • a councillor is elected to city council; a counsellor offers advice
  • defence/defense
    • interchangeable but defence is preferable; use defensive
  • discreet/discrete
    • discreet means circumspect action or speech; discrete refers to something being distinct or separate.
  • ensure/insure
    • insure is to protect against loss; ensure is to make certain.
  • fewer/less
    • if you can count it, use fewer; if you can't count it, use less (fewer apples but less applesauce)
  • historic/historical
    • something important is historic; something that happened in the past is historical.
  • i.e./e.g.
    • use i.e. in place of "that is"; use e.g. to cite examples
  • its/it's
    • its is possessive (the dog licked its paws); it's is a contraction of "it is".
  • license/licence
    • use license as a verb, licence as a noun.
  • moral/morale
    • moral is a lesson; morale is an attitude or mental condition.
  • practise/practice
    • use practise as a verb, practice as a noun or adjective.
  • principal/principle
    • principal means head or leading figure; principle means rule, law, moral guideline or general truth.
  • rational/rationale
    • rational is sensible; rationale is a statement of reason
  • re-sign/resign
    • re-sign is to sign again; resign is to quit
  • stationary/stationery
    • if you remain in one place, you are stationary; stationery is paper.
  • that/which
    • use "that" when the clause is essential to the meaning of the sentence; use which, set off with commas, for clauses less essential to meaning.