This week, the Royal Bank took over the cover of one of those free papers that litter the subway. It wrapped the cover of the Star and bought an inside display ad in the same issue.

And in two of those three cases, they spelled “practise” wrong.

  • Introducing RBC Direct Investing Practice Accounts
  • Practice online investing without using real money
  • Practice online investing without using real money (on ‘Metro’ cover)

To recap:

  • Practice and licence are nouns.
  • Practise and license are verbs.
  • A minority of writers ignore this distinction. A smaller minority uses practise for both, an American practice.
  • The headlines and body copy are not egregiously misspelled (they didn’t write “practize”), but their usage is wrong nonetheless.

“Practice online investing” is a verb phrase, hence uses the wrong spelling. I reported this to the Royal Bank. I had to threaten to list them as having refused to respond before they actually did.

Suzanne Willers wrote back to say “The Canadian Oxford Dictionary deems it acceptable to use the words ‘practice’ and ‘practise’ interchangeably.” Except of course it doesn’t: The first spelling listed is the correct or majority usage, while other spellings are variants. It says so right there on p. xiii of the 2004 Second Edition: “Any variant spellings or forms are given at the main headword in bold type in brackets before the definition…. The main headword represents the most common form in Canadian usage.”

So we’ve got a company that’s richer than God that gets two simple words half-right, and a PR lady with a degree in commerce from Dal (or whatever) lecturing me on how to read a dictionary whose findings I spent two years double-checking. Licence to ill.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2009.09.18 12:27. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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