American vs. Canadian Grammar + Update on Imminent Danger!

We’ll start with the update, since that’s what I’m currently the most excited about. Approximately forty-seven seconds ago, I sent the newly-shortened, vastly-improved manuscript for Imminent Danger and How to Fly Straight into It off to my iUniverse editorial consultant. She will send it on to the Return Evaluator, who will … evaluate it? The name is kind of self explanatory. Anyway, I should be getting the results of my return evaluation back within 7-10 business days.

If everything goes really well, the evaluator will love the new, shortened version, and be so impressed with my flawless grasp on English grammar that she’ll recommend me for publication and Editor’s Choice designation on the spot. In all likelihood, of course, she’ll probably find a few things for me to improve on, and recommend a professional copy-edit. But, as I’ve said before, I’m all right with that. I’m trying the iUniverse route this time, and although it might be expensive, I’m going to wait until I see the finished product before I start forming opinions.

So anyway, the book is finally moving forward, and I’m incredibly excited about that. Yay!

American vs. Canadian Grammar

I’m Canadian, and as such, I use Canadian spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Americans do not use Canadian spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Since I’ve struggled with the conversion, I thought I might share the fruits of my knowledge with you here. Some of the examples are direct Canadian-to-American issues, will some of the examples are just basic grammar know-how that I recently discovered I’ve been doing all wrong.


“Alright” is not a word. The correct usage is “All right”. Apparently “alright” was used a lot in the old days, but it’s fallen out of proper use now, and therefore we shouldn’t be using it. All right, everyone got that?

Punctuation in Quotation Marks

Consider the following example:

Janine raised her arms in a gesture that clearly meant “come hither”.

Check out the end of that phrase. In Canadian punctuation, that sentence is fine. The phrase “come hither” is self-contained, and the period goes outside the quotation marks. In American punctuation, however, you stick the period inside the quotation marks, as follows:

Robert’s face was screwed up, as if to say “I’ll kill you all with my bare teeth.”


I personally think this one is open to debate, but the American grammatical standard requires that the word “God” always be capitalized. Always. No exceptions. If you’re talking about multiple gods or goddesses, that’s all right. But if you are referring to one, all-knowing, all-seeing deity, you capitalize the name.


This one annoyed me. The basic rule of thumb is that any time you use the word “Oh” — as in “Oh, no!” — you have to put a comma after it. I think it looks silly. I think “Oh yeah!” reads much more smoothly than “Oh, yeah!”. But apparently that’s the standard, much as I am loathe to admit it.


The ellipsis is, of course, the “…” in sentences. Here are some examples of incorrectly used ellipses:

“He’s so… gorgeous.”

“He’s so…gorgeous.”

In case that didn’t make it obvious, the problem here is the spacing. An ellipsis needs a space before and after. So, the sentence should properly read:

“He’s so … gorgeous.”

If you’ve been skipping the space before the ellipsis, like I’ve been doing, the new spacing is going to look weird. But it’s also the correct spacing, so get used to hitting that space bar!

In conclusion, grammar is annoying.

It occurs to me that only one of those examples actually had anything to do with differences between America and Canada. Oh, well.

Unrelated image of the day:

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Categories: iUniverse, My Works, Self Publishing, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 56 Comments

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56 thoughts on “American vs. Canadian Grammar + Update on Imminent Danger!

  1. Thanks for the grammar lesson. I’m at fault of some of them, now I’ve learned the error of my ways and will go fix them. Soonish 😀
    Love that image!!

    • Michelle Proulx

      Isn’t it crazy how we can think we have a great grasp on grammar, and then we find out that we’ve been doing a ton of things wrong? Sigh.

  2. You think you have problems try being a Brit immersed in the whole spelling things with a ‘z’ that shoud be spelt with an ‘s’ for a group of countries that supposedly share a language translation is frequently required when chatting with online friends across the pond lol

    • Michelle Proulx

      Haha, so true. At least America and Canada are close, so a lot of their language seeps into ours. I guess you don’t have that luxury, lol.

    • I know there is a huge difference in “Brit” English and “American” English. I want to write a story set in England but the difference in our shared language keeps me from it. 😦

  3. You North Americans can say ‘all right’ if you want – I’m quite happy with ‘alright’.
    (Please note position of full stop… or ‘period’ if you prefer!)
    Just checked my dictionary (Oxford 2nd Ed, 2005) which makes the point that there’s no logical reason to insist on two words when we accept other merged words like although and already.

    • Michelle Proulx

      I agree! But if I want to sell my book to Americans, I must play the “all right” game. 🙂

  4. “Alright” has been in use since 1887. (

    There is a lot of controversy regarding it–especially since some people, inexplicably, don’t want to apply the same rules regarding “all together” and “all ready” to “all right.” Even some grammar books are conflicted when they say that “all right” and “alright” have two different definitions, but then they say “alright” isn’t a real word.

    (Example: “My spelling was all right” versus “My spelling was alright.” The first means “all correct,” whereas the second means “acceptable.”

    Apparently “alright” is more commonly used in America than other English-speaking countries. One person said that he had always thought “all right” was the British or Canadian spelling of the American “alright.”

    But, no less a person than Gertrude Stein uses “alright.” (Also, Word considers it a correct spelling.)

    I was told all my life that “‘ain’t’ isn’t a word.” Then I found out that it dates back to at least the Renaissance and can be found in Shakespeare. It was also *commonly* used in 18th century newspapers in America.

    That sort of information makes me defensive about preserving the use of “hated on” words like ain’t and alright. (Perhaps it’s accidental, and perhaps it’s not, but both words are commonly seen/used in the South. Sometimes I wonder if there’s a conspiracy to declare popular Southern words “non-existent” and whoever uses them “ignorant.”)

    And I think it’s hard to argue that “alright” is somehow misspelled when “okay, OK, and O.K.” are all acceptable spelling variations of the early 20th century phrase “oll korrect.” The irony is that “okay” means “alright.”

    I knew British grammar puts the punctuation outside the quotes, but I didn’t know that “God” was not routinely capitalized. You’re right that that’s a rule down here. Also, when you speak of God using a pronoun, you capitalize the pronoun. So you might say, “And He spoke from the mountain.” The exception to this are Bibles; most I’ve seen do not capitalize the pronouns. Everyone else does, though.

    I’m going to be a rebel when it comes to the ellipses, though. I think they look better without a forward space. (Word automatically puts the extra spaces between them.) When I read, “So… you’re dating him?” I hear a drawl of the word, which is different from “So . . . you’re dating him?” The first looks like the word drags out (“Soooooo, you’re dating him?”), whereas the second one looks like there’s a word that’s been eliminated. (“So, bitch, you’re dating him?”)

    • Michelle Proulx

      Hahahahaha. Now whenever I see an ellipsis, I’m going to automatically add the word “bitch” into the gap. Love it. And I enjoyed the history lesson 🙂 I personally prefer alright over all right, but I must conform to American publishing standard.

  5. LOL, I’m so glad my blog doesn’t have a copy editor. I’m just envisioning virtual red pen EVERYWHERE.

    • Michelle Proulx

      Hahaha, yeah, I know what you mean. In that I mean my own blog needs editing, not that yours does 🙂

  6. Others have already argued the “alright” business, so I won’t go there.

    But the “god” thing bugs me. No, you don’t need to spell it with a capital “G”. The only reason it’s spelled that way in certain instances is if you’re talking about the “God” in Christianity (whereas that’s its name, so you would capitalize it just as you would your own or someone else’s). For example, you wouldn’t say “God is a God,” it would be “God is a god.”

    The rest of the stuff.. very nit picky, and not needed to sell your story. Everybody has their own style of writing.

    • Michelle Proulx

      I agree about the nit picky thing 🙂 I’ve always felt that grammar can be very subjective, although many people don’t agree with me.

      • ThePaladinSkye

        It’s completely subjective. Language and communication aren’t objective facts.. they are inherently subjective as they stem from the mind and are completely arbitrary. Odd that someone would try and argue otherwise, lol.

    • Actually, in Judaism, “God” is always capitalized, too–as are all of the names/titles of God, such as Adonai, Elohim, Shehecheyanu, etc.

      In English translations of the Tao Te Ching, the word “Tao” is also capitalized, because it doesn’t mean a way but THE Way–just as in the monotheistic faiths, you are not referring to a god but THE God.

      If you’re writing sci-fi, the question is what god are you talking about? If your people are monotheistic, then they will speak of God in the capital, simply because the capitalization makes the word supreme. But if your people have many gods, then you will use the word without capitals a lot (most?) of the time.

      The exception is if you say “the God Cthulu.” In Hinduism, it seems usual to say God So-and-So or Goddess Such-and-Such, although you speak of the gods and goddesses (even in the singular, such as “mother goddess”) without a capital. In the first instance, “God” or “Goddess” becomes a title, like “King Poohba,” but otherwise capitalization is avoided since no one god or goddess is supreme. (Unless your people believe in a single deity which manifests as other deities–which is the Hindu belief–at which point you would refer to the Supreme Oneness as God, while the manifestations would be gods.)

      • Michelle Proulx

        You are an unending font of knowledge. How do you know all these things?!! But yes, I am referring to GOD, as in the monotheistic GOD, so I suppose I really should be capitalizing it.

        • I was raised in the Baptist church, graduated from an Episcopalian high school, had a Hindu sociology teacher in college, and am currently in the process of converting to Judaism.

          That, and I’m a liberal arts major. It’s my job to know curious but utterly useless facts.

      • I should have said that I was just giving one example (in this case, Christianity), but the point still remains. Also, I may be wrong, but Jews would spell it “G-d”, correct? As in, they (in general) won’t write out its full name in any instance because they believe it is wrong to.

        Still, I would disagree with your statement, “If you’re writing sci-fi, the question is what god are you talking about? If your people are monotheistic, then they will speak of God in the capital, simply because the capitalization makes the word supreme.” It’s fiction; the people you create in your story don’t have to follow any particular rules. For example, a people might not use capitalization at all. If you’re following a particular religion and people that already exist, then it would make sense to follow the basis of what’s already been established, but if you’re making up something else entirely then it’s open

        • Orthodox (and perhaps some Conservative) Jews write “G-d” in casual correspondence because you are not supposed to deface the name of God by tearing it up or throwing it away. That’s why Torah scrolls and other religious books are buried in a Jewish cemetery like a person. (This has been done for centuries; some caches have proven treasure troves for archaeologists.)

          Reform, Reconstructionist, most Conservatives, and secular Jews do not adhere to that rule. (Although–as far as I’m aware–all of the liberal Jewish denominations will bury a Torah or Biblical scroll.) Depending on which rabbi an Orthodox person follows, they may or may not write “God” on the internet. I read one opinion that you should use “G-d” because someone may print the website, etc. and then throw it away, but I’ve also seen it argued that electronic communication is considered impermanent, so you don’t have to worry about it. (You can write “God” on a chalkboard in a classroom, then erase it; it doesn’t count because it was never intended to be permanent.)

          Of course, everything changes in a book, because a book is not considered casual correspondence (i.e. it’s not something that’s often thrown away or otherwise handled in a careless manner). I have a book by an Orthodox rabbi who writes “God” throughout it. It’s up to me to treat it with reverence and dispose of it properly if it becomes unusable.

          I have Jews of various denominations in my trilogy, and if they ever say “God” in the narrative or dialog, I write “God.” With one exception: when one of them left a letter for his son, it says “G-d” because that’s the way he wrote it.

          My vampires have their own written language (based on cuneiform), and it has no capital letters (neither does Hebrew, for that matter). If it’s transliterated into English, though, you will see capital letters at the beginning of the sentence and certain words are capitalized as well. They also use English punctuation in transliteration. (This is true for transliterated Hebrew as well).

  7. Hey there! To be honest, I think the only thing of the above that might have thrown off anyone in the American market would have been the quotation thing, and even then I’m sure some wouldn’t have noticed. *eyeball roll* But it’s good that you’re taking them into consideration. 🙂 Glad that your story is moving on to the next level–I’m so looking forward to reading this thing!
    And yeah, you’re lucky you’re not a Brit trying to write for here, or you’d have a lot of other things to watch out for. I had no idea until I went to Ireland that they spell ‘tire’ with a y, like ‘tyre’. I was like, what?? Plus it was bothersome when I was trying to edit things, because I had to double-check to make sure the word wasn’t just spelled that way because we were in Europe.
    Also, I think that if it were in dialogue you would be fine using ‘alright’ as opposed to ‘all right’, but then you can get away with a lot of things in dialogue that you can’t in the rest of the story because of the way people talk. Although perhaps life is simpler if you just stick to the one, and don’t bother yourself with making the differentiation. x)

    • LOL. I just found out the other day that “dialogue” is British. In America, it’s spelled “dialog.” (I guess I spent too much time in the U.K. and Ireland; I’ve been spelling it “dialogue.” And now I can’t figure out if I’m supposed to use “gray” or “grey.”)

      • Michelle Proulx

        Ack, I know! I find the easiest thing is to just set your Word spellcheck to American English, and use whatever spelling they tell you.

    • Michelle Proulx

      Tire with a Y? Hahaha, that’s awesome. I remember my first day teaching English in South Korea, I wrote a word up on the board (I think it was colour), and of course I spelled it with a U because I’m Canadian. And after class my boss pulled me aside, all serious-like, and he goes, “We use American spelling. Please use American spelling.” I felt like a bad employee for the first few minutes, and then I was like, hey now, the Brits invented the damn language, it’s not unfair of me to assume that’s the spelling they would use overseas. Sheesh.

  8. ahaha, I always used “alright” >.> whoops! Thanks for the tip though 😉

    • Michelle Proulx

      Well, I think you’re allowed to use “alright” if you’re Canadian/British. But in America it is apparently a no-no, at least if you want to meet publishing standards. I’ll probably keep using it, and then I’ll have to go through and change it every time I reach the point of publishing a book. Siiiiiigh.

  9. This is America, and we do things differently here, unlike you Canadians living in your igloos and stuff. If we want to say “supposebly,” then we will, because we’re Americans!

    • Michelle Proulx

      Sir, I am half tempted to leave my igloo, hitch up my dog-sled, and ride the ice flows down to your country and teach you what’s what. Just be thankful I’m not bringing my attack moose. Then you’d be sorry.

      • Gus Sanchez

        Madam, our moose are better than your moose. FACT.

        • Michelle Proulx

          Prove it.

          • Gus Sanchez

            Bullwinkle J. Moose, Frostbite Falls’ favorite son.

            GREATEST. MOOSE. EVAH.

            • Michelle Proulx

              I enjoyed your use of the word “evah”, as well as the fact that his last name is “Moose”. I think I shall legally change my name to Michelle Lothlorien Human.

              • Sorry, Michelle, but I must call your bluff. Everyone knows that Canadians are too polite to ever use attack moose on Americans. Not only that, but it might damage your chances to become the 51st state.

                But I must respectfully opine (in an American way, which is really fairly aggressive) about moose. While Bullwinkle was, most assuredly, the favorite son of Frostbite Falls–and one helluva a moose in general–he was rather passive. It was Rocky the flying squirrel that invariable saved him (and, indeed, all of America) from the evil machinations of Boris and Natasha. Had Rocky failed, Bullwinkle would have failed, and I would be addressing you all as “Comrade.”

                When it comes to aggressive moose, though, you cannot best a Swedish moose. I knew a Swedish moose once. It bit my sister. Very nasty bite.

                • Michelle Proulx

                  Canadians are too polite? Pah! We are the most offensive people in the world. Observe. I shall now insult your country. The United States of America is a nation which is partially comprised of people who disagree with my personal views in a way that I find aggravating. BURN.

                • Hey Keri, way to back me up there on the “Whose Moose is better?” argument. Calling Bullwinkle “passive” is about as backhanded a compliment I’ve ever heard. Jeez, just hand the argument over to the Canadian, whydon’tcha?

                  • This is how Canadians win. We just sit patiently and wait for someone to invalidate our opposer’s argument. It isn’t the most aggressive strategy, but it usually works out.

              • Gus Sanchez

                One thing’s for sure: your name would look lovely on book jackets AND business cards.

                • But, I must admit, I can’t pronounce it and I’ve been curious as to how you say it.

                  • Which part? Lothlorien? That’s from Lord of the Rings — the elven woods where Galadriel lives. It’s pronounced Loth-lore-ee-en. Or my last name? Proulx? Rhymes with shrew, except you’re supposed to roll the R because it’s French.

      • First, I was almost fuming. Then I almost choked on my laughter.
        Not all Americans believe such nonsense!

        • Michelle Proulx

          One of the first things my South Korean students asked me was if I really lived in an igloo. I was sorely tempted to say yes, but I restrained myself.

          • mari wells

            You should have, Thn you would have been one “COOL” dude then. LOL, sorry couldn’t help myself.

  10. I’m with the Canadians on quotations in punctuation marks. While it does look neater the American way, I think the Canadian is more logical.

    Congrats on getting your baby out the door for round two!

  11. This baffles me…great post! 😀 Would have never known. Oh, grammar.

  12. I had to sit and read a basic grammar book before writing, and I still got it wrong. I also used the word, “alright,” but discovered I was misled. Funny, auto-correct doesn’t think so. It is also not acceptable to say, “ok,” it is, “okay.” And learning that em dash vs en dash made me eat a pound of cake. To be honest, I didn’t realize there was a Canadian versus American grammar debate going on, but I’d much rather watch that debate than our presidential one here in the states. I’m still trying to decipher whether to use, “which” or “that,” in a sentence. God bless all the editors out there.

    • I think I need to change my approach to grammar. My approach has always been that if I can read something fluidly without noticing any glaring errors, then the grammar is fine. But editors clearly don’t agree with me.

      • i tend to put a coma everywhere I take a breath. Either I breathe at the wrong times or there are people out there who can hold their breath a very long time. 😉

  13. I always used to spell “All right” A-l-R-I-G-H-T, it’s good to know the actual spelling.

    The American/Canadian spelling gave me soooo much trouble, for example grey/gray and color/colour. I keep making stupid mistakes because I can’t remember the Canadian spelling. It’s annoying. Why can’t everyone use the same spelling rules?

    • For the same reason some people still use yards and inches instead of the metric system. Once you get used to something, you don’t want to change it 🙂

  14. A Name

    You certainly come off as poorly educated here. English is defined by it’s most common usage. You have a very black and white way of looking at things for someone who’s apparently an author.

    • A Name

      its* :p

    • The purpose of this post was not to evaluate the English language in its entirety, but rather to look at several specific differences between Canadian and American grammar, in the context of a Canadian author writing for an American audience. English grammar differs from country to country, and similarly its “most common usage” differs from country to country. Many style guides have been published to help writers navigate these differences — since you seem very interested in learning more about English grammar, I would suggest you consult some of these books. Thanks for the comment, and happy reading!

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