A new book by Joe Clark about Canadian spelling
About the book
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Organizing Our Marvellous Neighbours is a short electronic book (an E-book) about Canadian spelling. It isn’t a dictionary and it doesn’t teach you how to spell. Rather, it starts from two premises:
- Canadian spelling is distinctive and unique.
- Many people think there is no such thing as “Canadian” spelling, so they use British (or, rarely, American) spelling instead.
I didn’t just read the dictionary and report what it says. I carried out loads of original research, examining everything from award-winning literature to medical journals to blogs to government Web sites to magazine and newspaper articles. My goal was to discover what spellings Canadians are actually using. The book assumes that the right way to spell is the way everyone else spells, then goes about discovering the way other people do spell.
The book is a readable, even breezy explanation of what Canadian spelling is. I teach you the history of Canadian spelling in less than a page. (Nobody else has ever bothered to teach you that, have they?) I explain my findings with brevity, but if you’re really interested, you can download my original data and do your own analysis.
The book is made for the computer age. Not only can you read it on your computer, iPhone, or iPad, the discussion assumes that most or all of your writing will take place on a computer. And this brings us to the big shocker of the book: After exhaustive tests, I proved that not a single spellchecker in common use (or even uncommon use) will enforce true Canadian spelling. They’ll all let you use British, American, or a mixture of both.
Thus the paradox of the spellchecker: The people who need them most fare the worst with them. If you aren’t sure how to “write Canadian” and you make a good guess, if that guess happens to match a British or American usage it will sail right through the spellchecker. When you’re done, your document will probably be written in something other than Canadian English. And unless you’re really good at spelling, you won’t notice. Never mind American media domination or British colonialism – computer spellcheckers are the single biggest threat to Canadian spelling.
But after you read the book, you’ll know what the rules are. (I give you a handy cheatsheet you can tack onto the wall of your cubicle.) You’ll have more knowledge to tame the unruly spellchecker on your system.
You’ll be convinced!
By the time you finish the book, I hope I will have convinced you that Canadian spelling exists and is something you should use. And for the skeptics out there, I devote a chapter to a devil’s-advocate view.