In Canada, we find that the issue of "Canadian English" versus "American English" comes up regularly. Although Canadian English is not exactly the same as American English, it is not British English either. We employ subtle differences in spelling and grammar that are unique to our country. If a recruiter sees a glaring mistake, he or she may feel that you perform sloppy work and this could be just enough to eliminate you from the running. To pass the detailed review, your résumé must have no spelling or grammatical errors at all. This section explains how to ensure that your document is impeccable. 

 Spelling Guidelines 

Canadian spelling is unique and takes on influences from our British and French ancestry, whit a touch of Americanism. For example, in Canada just as in the United Kingdom, we insert "u" in colour, favour, endeavour, and labour. On the other hand, we use "z" in organizing and specialize, just as the Americans do. A hint of French comes out when we use "centre" instead of "center". Furthermore, instead of writing a "check" or collecting "paycheck", we write a "cheque" and collect a "paycheque". A number of other Canadian words have idiosyncrasies; when in doubt, refer no the Guide to Canadian English Usage by Margery Fee and Janice McAlpine.

If you are using word processing software such as Microsoft Word, the system will likely default to the American language settings. If you do not use the appropriate language setting, the system will probably assume that you are spelling words correctly, even if they are wrong. So, before you start creating your résumé, change your setting to Canadian English. This will ensure that the spelling and grammar you employ conform to Canada's standards. Before completing your document, make sure to do a final spelling and grammar check. If you are thorough when readers review your résumé, they are not likely to find errors.

Don't rely solely on your computer to screen the spelling; you still must proofread your résumé very carefully. Many Canadian words are spelled correctly when you mean to say one thing but maybe incorrect in another scenario. For example, you may want to list your "Class A drivers licence" in your résumé to show your certification authorizing you do drive a tractor-trailer. This may "license" you (give you the permission) to drive the vehicle in Ontario. Note in the first sentence "licence" is a noun. In the second, "license" is a verb. Your computer would not be able to catch this difference, so you must be diligent in your proofreading.

You will find a list of commonly misspelled words in Appendix A. If you still are unsure of the spelling of a word, use a good Canadian dictionary such as the Canadian Oxford Dictionary of Current English by Katherine Barber to verify your work.

Using Numbers Effectively 

Using numbers in your résumé can be tricky. In Canada, we generally spell out the numbers one through nine and write larger numbers as numerals. However, sometimes it is more effective to use numerals throughout your résumé since these characters tend to stand out while using less space. Whichever system you decide to use, stay consistent. This will demonstrate that you purposely chose that particular structure for your résumé.

In Canada, we use the dollar "$", to discuss currency in writing. There are many ways to highlight money in your résumé. For example, you may choose to structure the figure as $1.5 million or you may choose to use $1.5 M. In both cases, since you are using the dollar symbol, you should not add the word "dollar" after the number; writing "1.5M dollar" would be incorrect.

If you are discussing Canadian dollars in Canada, it is not necessary to point this out. For example, "$1.5 million CDN" would be inappropriate if all your values Canadian. On the other hand, if you are discussing American dollars, then it is quite appropriate to use "$ 1.5 million U.S." or "$ 1.5 million USD" to let the reader know that the value is in a different currency. 

When it comes to percentages, many Canadians choose to use the symbol "%" instead of spelling out the word "percent" to define percentages in a résumé. You never need to use both the symbol and the word together. For example, writing "10% percents" would be incorrect.

Using Capital Letters Correctly

We often use capital letters often in résumé. Generally, use capital letters following Canadian style guidelines. 

Capitalize the first letter of the main word for all titles and proper names used in your résumé. Do not capitalize articles (a, an, the), conjunctions (and, but, or, nor, for, for, so), and short prepositions of four letters or less (at, by, in, on). 

In your résumé, you are likely to use capital letters in the following ways:

  • Your headline (Highly Accomplished RCMP Officer)
  • Your name (Jean Beaulieu)
  • Your street address (123 Major Avenue)
  • Company names (The Hudson's Bay Company) 
  • Your dates of employment (January 2013 - Present)
  • Job titles that you have held (Accounting Manager)
  • Geographical locations (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
  • Educational Institutions (University of Toronto)
  • Your credentials (Bachelor of Arts)
  • Associations (Human Resources Professionals Association of Ontario)
  • Formal program names ( Human Resource Management Program)
  • Formal names of courses you have taken (Accounting Principles)
  • Books you have written (Best Canadian Résumés)
  • Days that you work (Monday to Friday)
  • Holidays that you have worked (Canada Day)
  • Adjectives related to nationality (French documentation)

Due to space limitations, you will be tempted to take advantage of acronyms, initials, and abbreviations in your résumé. An "acronym" is a pronounceable word formed from the first letter or letters of a series of other words, such as ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange). Conversely, "initials," such as HRPA(Human Resources Professional Association) are a group of first letters use to represent a name or expression. "Abbreviations" are short forms for words such as Alta. (Alberta). We may use Admin. (Administration), Prov. (Province) and Hi-Tech (High Technology) to save space. 

When it comes to Canadian provinces and territories, it is perfectly okay to use initials or abbreviations as long as you follow some specific rules. The following chart provides three variations. Stay consistent with the system yo select throughout your cover letter

Province or Territory  Initials  Abbreviation
Alberta  AB Alta.
British Columbia BC B.C.
Manitoba MB Man.
New Brunswick NB N.B.
Newfoundland and Labrador  NL N.L
Northwest Territories  NT N.W.T.
Nova Scotia NS N.S.
Nunavut NU Nun.
Ontario ON Ont.
Prince Edward Island  PE P.E.I.
Québec QC Que.
Saskatchewan SK Sask.
Yukon Territory YT Y.T.

In Canada, initials and abbreviations for academic degrees such as Ph.D., MBA, MA, MSc, BSc, BA, and BComm generally do not require periods, but if you decide you use periods, do it consistently. The abbreviations "Mr.," "Mrs.," and "Ms.," take periods. Finally, the correct way to display " for example" in abbreviated format is "e,g." - not to be confused with "i.e.," the abbreviated form of "that is".

The use of capitalization causes confusion for many. The consensus is that formal titles such as "Mayor Hazel McCallion" is capitalized but informal ones like "the mayor of Mississauga, Hazel McCallion" is not.

If you are using an acronym, initial, or abbreviation that is not readily known by everyone in the industry where you are applying, it is best to spell out the word or phrase in full on the first usage, followed by the short form in parentheses. Then, you can use the short form throughout the rest of the document. You don't necessarily need the short form if you do not use the word again in your résumé.

Refer to The Canadian Dictionary of Abbreviations by Thérése Dobroslavic if you need to confirm the correct structure for English and French language acronyms, initials, and abbreviations commonly used in Canada. 

Using Punctuation Correctly 

In your résumé, you must show a strong command of the English language. Use periods at the end of complete sentences, even if they are in bulleted lists. Use commas consistently - especially when you are listing a series of items. For example, if you decide to list "planning, forecasting, and budgeting" whit a coma prior to the "and" use that structure throughout your résumé. You can also use colons to introduce lists of items. Only use semicolons to separate two main clauses if you need to distinguish each clause visually.

When incorporating quotations in a sentence, in Canada, we place the comma inside the quotes. When using parentheses (if we are to further clarify), the punctuation goes outside the final parenthesis. There is one exception: when you use a question mark or an exclamation point, place it inside the parentheses.

Using Non-Sexist Language

In Canada, the use of non-sexist language has become standard informal communication. Always use good judgement and choose terms that are non-gender specific whenever possible. Instead of "chairman," use "chairperson" or "chair." Instead of "manpower," consider "labour," "human resources," "staff," or "employees." We do not say "waiter" or "waitress," rather we refer to the person as a "server." Instead of "mailman" or "postman," you can try "mail carrier." Finally, rather than indicating "spokesman," try using the term "spokesperson."

Avoid using the masculine pronoun, "he" or "his" when referring to a person in general. For example, avoid a statement like this: "Trained and oriented each new employee, ensuring that he was quickly integrated with his role."Consider "Trained and oriented new employees, ensuring that each individual was quickly integrated into the position." 

Only if you are referring to someone specific, should you use the correct pronoun that defines that person? For example, a comment like this would be appropriate in a résumé: "Took the initiative to provide the senior accountant with administrative assistance during a busy tax season, which prompted an outstanding commendation from her."

The Influence of Technology on Canadian English 

Modern technology and the speed of communication have influenced how we use language. If you are like many Canadians, you have been using the Internet in your job search. You may be using Twitter, texting, and chatting online to communicate with others. To get your message across, some words have been shortened and degraded somewhat to cram messages into short "chat" language. In addition to this, the Internet has exposed us to inconsistencies, differences, and mistakes from all over the world, making it more difficult to ensure the correct use of language.

If you are discussing certain technological terms, you will need to make decisions on using capitalization and hyphenation. We tend to capitalize on certain technology-related terms such as Internet and Website, but this is changing as we see these words without capitalization just as often. Other words that refer to "electronic" terms, such as "e-mail," "e-commerce," "e-business," and "e-technology" may include the hyphen- or not. Whatever you do, employ consistency in your use of these types of terms.   

Whether you are preparing a résumé for the technology sector or want to show knowledge in certain hardware and software, it is important to know the correct capitalization for computer terminology. For example, many terms such as dBase, AutoCAD, and PowerPoint commonly use a mix of capital and lower case letters within the word. 

Your résumé should be a concise document, but it should also use proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Language is not static and the various iterations of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary are constantly evolving to incorporate changes and stay current. Ensure that you use a current version of the dictionary so that you are not bypassed for a simple error that could have been caught.

When it comes to language, some recruiters are becoming more tolerant, but you need to show that you have a strong command of English. If you are unsure of grammatical requirements, refer to Canadian style handbook such as The Canadian Press Style Book by Patti Tasko. If you still decide to make an exception to a rule, be consistent throughout your document.

By paying meticulous attention you will have one of Canada's best résumés! 

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