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Spell checkers catch some errors, but not all. They tend to miss homonyms—words that are pronounced the same way but spelled differently such as site/sight, there/their/they’re and its/it’s. For example, most spell checkers would report no error in the following sentence despite the fact that it has three serious spelling mistakes:

  • Their looking for a new sight where the gopher can build it’s home.

The joint influence of British and American spelling on Canadian usage has resulted in an additional challenge: Canadians tend to follow standard British spelling for certain words (e.g. axe, cheque), American spelling for others (e.g. connection, tire), and either for yet others (e.g. programme/program, neighbour/neighbor). The important thing to remember is to be consistent and follow a regular pattern when you spell. Don’t mix neighbour with labor, for example. Choose one pattern and follow it closely. The best way to avoid problems with mixed British and American spelling is to keep a dictionary handy that shows Canadian usage.

Spelling correctly is largely a matter of practice and the common-sense use of reference materials and standard spelling rules. Although each rule has exceptions, if you study them carefully you will be able to avoid many common errors, even without a spell checker.

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