Queen's University

Learn how Queen's is planning for our safe return to campus.



Style Guide

Spelling and Common Confusions

[graphic of Canadian maple leaf]

Spelling – Canadian 'our' words

The following is a list of commonly used words that take the Canadian “our” spelling:

  • armour
  • behaviour
  • colour
  • demeanour
  • endeavour
  • favour, favourite, favourable
  • flavour
  • harbour
  • honour, honourable, honoured, but honorary
  • humour but humorous
  • labour but laborious
  • neighbour
  • odour but odorous
  • rigour but rigorous
  • rumour
  • saviour
  • valour but valorous
  • vapour but vaporous
  • vigour but vigorous


  • tremor
  • squalor

The double ‘L’

The Canadian spelling for words that use a double 'L' is below:

  • compel, compelled, compelling
  • counsel, counsellor, counselling
  • enrol, enrolled, enrolment
  • fuel, fuelled
  • fulfill, fulfilled, fulfilment, fulfilling
  • install, installment, installation, installing
  • marvel, marvelled, marvelous
  • signal, signalled, signalling
  • total, totalled
  • travel, travelled, traveller, travelling

Other Canadian spellings

  • analyze (not analyse)
  • centre, centred, centring
  • cheque (as a method of payment)
  • defence
  • grey (colour)
  • organize (not organise)
  • practice (noun or adjective), practise (verb)
  • program
  • theatre

Common confusions

  • accept/except
    • To accept means to receive or approve; except means “excluding” or “but” (I’d apply for the job, except I’m too lazy.).
  • admittance/admission
    • Use admittance when referring to the physical – “No admittance.” Admission refers to entry based upon the presentation of documentation or money (George was granted admission to Queen’s.).
  • adverse/averse
    • Adverse means “harmful” or “against one’s interest”; averse means “strongly disinclined.”
  • advise/advice
    • Advise is the verb; advice is the noun. License/licence and practise/practice follow the same rule.
  • affect/effect
    • Affect is a verb and effect is a noun. To affect means to change or influence; effect is a result.
  • all right/alright
    • All right should be used to mean “all correct” or “okay.” Alright is not universally accepted and should be avoided.
  • a lot
    • A lot is always written as two words (There are a lot of courses to choose from.).
  • complement/compliment
    • Complement refers to something that completes the whole or goes well with something; compliment means praise or flattery.
  • every day/everyday
    • Every day is a phrase in which every modifies the noun day (I go for a walk every day.); everyday is an adjective used to describe activities that occur every day or are ordinary or commonplace (Walking the dog is an everyday occurrence.).
  • farther/further
    • Farther refers to physical distance; further refers to figurative distance.
  • fewer/less
    • Use fewer to refer to a diminished number (I eat fewer fatty foods nowadays.); less is used for a diminished amount (I eat less fat nowadays.).
  • immigrate/emigrate
    • People emigrate from a country and immigrate to a country.
  • its/it’s
    • its is possessive (the cat chased its tail); it’s is a contraction of “it is.”
  • more than/over
    • Both more than and over are acceptable but more than is preferred in Queen’s documents.
  • principal/principle
    • Principal means head or leading figure (Queen’s Principal Daniel Woolf), and it means first, most important (Pruning is the principal method of caring for raspberry bushes.); principle means a basic truth, law or moral guideline.
  • stationary/stationery
    • Stationary means stopped, not moving; stationery refers to writing materials.
  • that/which
    • Use which (surrounded by commas) if a group of words adds information (The books, which have black covers, are new.). Use that if it limits the set of things you're talking about (The books that have black covers are new.).
  • they’re/there/their
    • They’re is the contraction of “they are”; there is the opposite of here; their is a possessive.
  • who’s/whose
    • Who’s is a contraction of “who is”; whose is a relative pronoun indicating possession (Whose turn is it to wash the dishes?).

See also: Tricky Words