Canadian Spelling

If anyone has been watching closely, they may have noticed my spelling. It’s American. It didn’t used to be: like all good Canadian students I was brought up to defend our proud mix of British and American conventions (“colour” and “centre” but “mom” and “civilize”). American spelling still bothers me. But language changes. Sometimes it simplifies, and boy could English spelling do with simplification.

For better or worse, English is the international language. Its inconstant spelling helps to create a class of people who are not fully literate; it is a barrier not only for native speakers but for people of all languages and cultures. Recent research suggests it may even contribute to higher levels of dyslexia among speakers of English.

It won’t happen overnight; no academie should or could dictate how we spell. That doesn’t mean that change should not or will not come. The American changes so far are tiny – nothing like what Webster hoped for when he included “definit” and “fether” in his dictionary. More recent innovations, like “thru” and “lite” are not yet acceptable in literate writing. They grate on me because I am not used to them. But in the end, American spelling will be the standard. Consistent is better. Simpler is better. I have changed in the hope that others will.

2004-10-03

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