Word Usage


Use the form’s actual title (and number if it has one) as the link text. When referring to an internal form, do not use the word “form” unless leaving it out is unclear. Always include the file type and size in the link text.

  • Complete the Application for Enrolment (HLTH 102) to enrol for MSP
  • If you are located outside of Canada, complete the Out-of-Country Claim Form (PDF, 1.4MB)

Cell Phones & Mobile Devices

Use “cell phone” when referring only to phones. Use “mobile device” when referring to the broader category including tablets and cell phones.

  • Talking on a cell phone negatively affects a driver’s ability to focus
  • The Office of the Chief Information Officer has guidelines on how to protect your mobile devices

That or Which

Use “that” for essential clauses in a sentence, and “which” for non-essential clauses. Essential clauses don’t have commas around them, while non-essential clauses do. If the word “that” can be used in place of “which,” use “that.” In most cases, you need to use a comma before the word “which.”

  • He cited the case that changed Canadian law
  • The new legislation, which is not yet complete, will offer several benefits


“Initiative” is overused and vague. Be precise when describing a program, project, plan or action. “Initiative” is appropriate for the Elections BC initiative process.


The B.C. government uses Canadian spelling in all publications and on all websites. Refer to the Canadian Oxford and make sure your Word is set to Canadian English.

Hyphens & Compound Words

See also Punctuation.

Use a hyphen when a prefix brings two identical vowels together.

  • co-operate, co-ordinate

Use a hyphen for compound modifiers that come before a noun, but not after or when used alone.

  • Child-care centre, child-care grant
  • Facilities for child care
  • Child care

Note: Most compound words don’t use hyphens. When in doubt, check a Canadian dictionary.

  • Courthouse, courtroom
  • Bylaw, byelection
  • Fundraise, fundraiser, fundraising
  • Lifecycle
  • Lowercase (verb), lower case (noun or abbreviation)
  • Northeast, northwest

Common Spelling Variations

  • Alternate (one after the other), alternative (one or the other)
  • Adviser (not advisor)
  • Defence (not defense), but defensive
  • Fulfil (not fulfill), fulfilled, fulfilling, fulfilment
  • Inquiry (not enquiry), except when referring to proper nouns like Enquiry BC
  • Judgment (not judgement)
  • Licence (noun), license (verb), licensed, licensing, licensee
  • Metre (metric), meter (gauge)
  • Offence (noun), offensive
  • Practice (noun or adjective), practise (verb)

Proper Nouns

  • Indigenous
  • First Nations
  • New Westminster (not New Westminister)
  • Northwestern B.C., not northwest B.C.


Capitalize Indigenous and First Nations at all times. Refer to the specific nation when possible.

When referring to a person, use Indigenous.

  • An Indigenous person
  • Use First Nation (without an "s") when referring to one specific nation
    • The Squamish First Nation

Ministries & Organizations

Avoid using ministry, organization or program names in web content. Names change often, aren't plain language, and rarely describe the service.

Research has shown that readers aren't interested in what organization provides a service, they're interested in the service itself.

By focusing on services and supporting information, and not ministry or organization names, content requires less maintenance, has a longer lifespan, and is more relevant to readers.