Canadian Writing



I thought I’d share a few tips for Canadians writing in an American market(they don’t know what a double double is, or pop, or Tim Horton’s – so much to teach, so little time :).

I wrote Perfectly Honest and I hadn’t realized how Canadian I was (with a British writing style) until I entered the manuscript into one of the RWA chapter contests in the United States. The main character, Mikaela, was tired at the end of a long day and agreed to do a favor for a friend, so she stopped on her way home for a double double. Two of the contest judges commented that they had no idea what that was. What?? Canadian babies’ first words are momma, dada and double double. How could you not know what that was? Haha. It’s a coffee – two creams, two sugars. Plus, Mikaela routinely went to the drive thru at Tim Horton’s (our most popular, one-on-every-corner, don’t drive anywhere until you’ve stopped there first, coffee and donut shop) to pick up the double double. One judge wrote, “Who is this Tim Horton? Need to develop his character.” I was going to write back that he’s a relative of Dunkin’!

So I realized that there were a few things I had to keep in mind when I was writing for an American audience (and an American publisher). First, I had to get rid of all the ‘u’s in words like favourite, flavour, colour, and honour. American spelling avoids hyphens for prefixes so I had to reevaluate on call and subspecialty (which I spelled re-evaluate, on-call, and sub-specialty). “Which” had to be changed to “that” when followed by a restrictive clause (a grammatical term that means that the information following “that” is essential to the meaning of the sentence) because American style observes the distinction. And if I mention butter tarts, Nanaimo bars, or poutine, my American readers may not know what I’m talking about. Same goes for washroom, Hydro (our electricity company, nothing to do with water) and toque (winter hat). Use soda for pop, sofa for chesterfield, erase the “eh”, and throw in a few “y’all”s.

I think I’ve got the hang of it now (and a really good Canadian editor who weeds out all the Canadianisms before I send the manuscript off!) and I’m thrilled to be a part of Soul Mate Publishing and all the wonderful authors from around the world. And I’ll toss in a few “eh”s just to keep a bit of Canadian in my writing!