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I'm a Canadian about to start work in the US. Is it appropriate to continue to use Canadian spelling in my new workplace? Obviously, if I were to author anything client-facing, I would use whatever spelling is most familiar to the client (or whatever my company's policy dictates). But can I keep my Canadian spellings in emails, internal documents, and other internal communications?

To be clear, I don't mind being "outed" by my non-American spellings. I just don't want to come across as uneducated or unprofessional.

I would be okay if a colleague saw my writing and thought, "Oh, Ord is using British-looking spellings. He's probably from a Commonwealth country."

I would not be okay if a colleague saw my writing and thought, "Oh, Ord is making spelling mistakes everywhere. How unprofessional."

This is a professional workplace. Fairly standard office environment. I'm a programmer, if that's useful context.

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    Is this a professional workplace? Less educated Americans may be unfamiliar with what words have a Canadian spelling. – Myles Jul 19 '17 at 21:53
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    The difference between your spellings and that of your neighbours to the south are characterise by fairly meagre regular recognisable differences. Everyone will know, and I'm sure you'll naturalise eventually. – Nathan Cooper Jul 19 '17 at 21:58
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    @NathanCooper except aluminum vs aluminium. Never surrender! ;-) – enderland Jul 19 '17 at 21:59
  • @Ord This should be a complete non-issue in a professional workplace outside of marketing and communications. – Myles Jul 19 '17 at 22:04
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    There are enough Americans in the workplace who can't even write using correct American spelling. I doubt anyone will care. – Seth R Jul 19 '17 at 22:06
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This is going to vary entirely based on your workplace. But I'm 99% sure you are way more worried about this than you need to be (unless maybe you're in some sort of communications role?).

Some people will have fun and joke about it. We have a bot that converts American English phrases to British English phrases (and vice versa). So "favorite" gets corrected to "favourite" and vice versa.

That might drive people nuts on some teams. Other folks would have a good time with it.

My recommendation if you are worried would be one of these:

  • Ask your boss about this
  • Ask coworkers of yours who are also from a non-US English speaking country

You can also wait a few weeks to get a better feel about this. You will learn more about this piece of company culture.

I would not be okay if a colleague saw my writing and thought, "Oh, Ord is making spelling mistakes everywhere. How unprofessional."

If this is your ultimate goal, I'd just try to use US English. I highly doubt many people would care at all but there will likely be one or two people who are just... difficult.

Obviously, if I were to author anything client-facing, I would use whatever spelling is most familiar to the client (or whatever my company's policy dictates).

If you do end up doing client-facing work, I'd recommend trying to write more in one style (probably US English). Trying to mix and match will drive you nuts. You can also just set spellcheckers to whichever locale you want, too.

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    Yup, since the OP said they're a programmer, getting used to writing in US english might help avoid annoying inconsistencies (ie don't make me grep for both colour and color). – Nathan Cooper Jul 19 '17 at 22:09
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    @NathanCooper we had a project which was named in British English (since it was primarily worked on by people from there) -- the day they left, someone made a massive PR to "fix" all the naming to be US English ;-) – enderland Jul 19 '17 at 22:10
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    I'm a Brit working in the US. I use US spellings on client facing documents and emails, and even on internal documents. For skype chats, Slack or whatever, I revert to using correct spelling :) – Laconic Droid Jul 24 '17 at 14:33
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Overall, I think your approach is well-thought out when dealing with clients by sticking to company policy or using whatever spelling style that are most comfortable using.

I understand how you don't want to give your co-workers a wrong impression with your use of spelling, but I would hope that the individuals at your job would be understanding enough to realize that we are the most comfortable with the language we grew up speaking. Of course if you are that concerned about it, it doesn't hurt at all to ask your boss about it.

If you were say in a job that was very writing intensive, then I would say your concern would be more legitimate. However, since you mention that you are in a programming position, I don't see this being a huge issue and I wouldn't worry about it too much.

I wish you the best of luck in your new position! :)

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From a European perspective, unless the US is a lot more "strict" regarding language in the workplace, I doubt most will pay attention to British/Canadian vs. American spelling. As long as peers understand you, there are no repercussions to even poor grammar. And at worst, the colleagues here will just ask for clarification by tapping on the shoulder or via instant message.

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