(Or how an alien benefits from Microsoft Word)

My first inclination that pursuing doctoral studies would be an alien experience came from an e-mail that thanked me for applying to the University of British Columbia’s Microbiology and Immunology Doctoral Programme. ProgramME? Now I’ve traveled (oops travelled) to Canada, England, and Scotland on educational tours. My family drove to Quebec City and vacationed on Prince Edward Island. Many of our books (hello Cuthberts, Pip, and Bennets!) were printed in the UK, so I am familiar with the British system of spelling. Still, the extra “me” reminded me that I had excitedly accepted an international graduate program. And for someone who can’t remember whether canceled has one or two Ls (L in the American system and LL in the British system), the thought of remembering alternative spelling (or is it speling…haha, jk!) was enough to produce a twinge of anxiety. Of course, there are handy rules in place. Nearly every word ending (and pronounced!) ER is spelled RE by Canadians. The British system favors (or favours?) LL, while the American system uses L. The British system utilizes stately Ss, whereas Americans usually prefer the more eccentric Zs. But, as everyone knows, the English language treats rules more like working hypotheses rather than scientific laws. For example, we write counseLLor (B) versus counseLor (A) but look at fulfiL (B) versus fulfiLL (A). And why write glamOUR (BB) to describe a glamOrous (BB) dress? Strange…

Nevertheless, Microsoft Word provides spelling salvation in the form of international spell check. For those who are curious click Systems Preferences>Spelling>British system. I suppose that when I submit my thesis or write my first assignment or article I will change language preferences. But for now, I think, I will stick with my homeland spelling just for a while longer.

By KCBauer

Hello! My name is KCBauer and I am a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia. I am a researcher, writer, musician, and explorer. Originally from Washington DC, I graduated with a BA in Music and BS in Biology in 2014. This blog focuses on the gut microbiota, the trillions of microorganisms that reside along the digestive tract. My grad research at UBC examines the role of the gut microbiota on human health, brain development, and anthropology. When I am not in the lab, I enjoy ambling through Vancity, listening to music, reading science journals, and hiking. If you have questions, ideas for blog topics, suggestions for place to visit in BC, or corrections send me an email at


Love it! I will share this with our granddaughter Rilla, who lived in New Zealand for 4.5 years. In elementary school, her teacher counted it wrong and deducted points if she used a correct American spelling in a spelling test. I thought that was carrying things a bit far.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s