Saturday, February 28, 2004

Editing Canadians

As The Pomegranate changes from being a Canadian journal with a Canadian editor to being published in Britain with an American editor, issues of spelling, punctuation, and usage arise. Contributors come from those three nations and others as well, including some for whom English is not their native tongue.

Having taught composition, rhetoric, and advanced nonfiction writing at the community college and university level, as well as having worked on newspapers and magazines, I think that I have a good grasp of formal American usage.

Canadian writer Stephen Henighan comments that his fellow Canadians veer inconsistently between American and British spellings and wonders if their inconsistency is not partly ideological: "A conscious move away from British spelling toward American forms might be interpreted as an ideological statement in favour of integration into U.S. culture´┐Żand to some extent the promotion of U.S. spelling in Alberta and British Columbia may be seen in this way. "

The Pomgranate's British copyeditor, an advanced member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders in the UK, admits to having given "considerable thought" to the matter and quotes another SfEP member as saying, "There is a whole chapter about spelling in the Editors' Association of Canada's style guide, Editing Canadian English. The tone is rather despairing. Basically, there is no such thing as standard Canadian spelling--it is a hybrid. Choice of spelling style can be determined by the intended market, the client, the subject matter or type of publication."

The copyeditor reminds me that the contributor guidelines specify either British or American spelling and punctuation, consistent within each article if not for the journal as a whole. What this comes down to is that I can leave Canadians their "labour" and "honour" and otherwise Americanize [not -ise] their writing. Probably no one will notice or object. Hegemony marches on.

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