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This blog is about the fascinating, fun, and challenging things about the English language. I hope to entertain you and to help you with problems or just questions you might have with spelling and usage. I go beyond just stating what is right and what is wrong, and provide some history or some tips to help you remember. Is something puzzling you? Feel free to email me at wordlady.barber@gmail.com.
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Wednesday, September 14, 2011


It's the time of year when people are enrolling in all sorts of activities (I recommend taking up ballet classes if you haven't done so yet). A faithful Wordlady reader has written to inquire whether "enrol" or "enroll" is the correct spelling in Canada. The Canadian Oxford Dictionary gives "enrol" as the headword with "enroll" as the variant, so, as with many things, both are correct. Personally, I use "enroll" because I see no good reason to spell it differently from "roll"; English spelling is way too complicated already without adding even more complication!  Frankly, I think I was surprised to discover when we edited the dictionary that "enrol" won out over "enroll" (though the margin was probably slim). Both spellings have existed since the word was borrowed into English from French in the 1300s,  but "enrol" is now preferred by the British and "enroll" by Americans. Often these differences date back to Samuel Johnson's Dictionary on the one hand and Noah Webster's on the other, but in this case Johnson included only "enroll". It seems that the single-l spelling won out in Britain in the course of the 19th century. I've just started a facebook poll to see how usage is going currently, and I will keep you posted.

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About Me

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Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.