Cut Spelling

Christopher Upward

a handbook to simplifying written English
by omitting redundant letters

"The aim of this book is to sow ideas. It is not to proclaim a dogma."

The English spelling problem

English spelling is a world problem. Its 'rules' deal with exceptions, not regularities. It confuses learners, and debates rage endlessly on how to teach it. Poor literacy is blamed on children, parents, teachers, television, politicians. Errors abound in public and private writing, and misleading spellings cause frequent mispronunciation. Dictionaries list numerous alternative forms, with America and Britain often disagreeing. Unlike most languages, English ignores the alphabetic principle that spelling should show pronunciation. When English was largely confined to Britain and education was for a minority, this mattered less than today; but an educated world now needs something better.

The Cut Spelling (CS) solution

Most past ideas for tackling the problem were radical, requiring extensive respelling, extra letters, even a new alphabet, regardless of disruption. With its three rules for cutting redundant letters, CS streamlines written English to combine maximum regularization with minimum change. Although its basis is the alphabetic principle that spelling should correspond to speech-sounds, CS gives no preference to any one accent, but leaves the criteria of economy, simplicity and predictability to determine the features of a world orthography for the twenty-first century. This second edition of the CS Handbook is revised and expanded to build on over ten years' practical experience of CS in use.

Range of readership

The CS Handbook addresses a varied readership. For the 'guardians' of today's spelling (editors, educationists, lexicographers) it will challenge any assumption that English spelling is not in dire need of modernization. Teachers will gain new insights into the problems faced by learners of all ages, native- and non-native-speaking alike. Psychologists will wish to examine the claim that redundant letters are a prime obstacle to literacy. Linguists of every kind will appreciate an analysis of English spelling which is at once functional, systemic, historical and comparative. And all those readers who are enticed into trying out the recommendations, exercises and dictionary-key provided by this book will find their appetite for linguistic adventure whetted.


Foreword to second edition.
How to use the Handbook.
Part I: Cut Spelling explained.
Ch.1 Aim & Context: definition, origin and evolution of CS - principles of alphabetic spelling - issues of implementation - future development.
Ch.2 Form & Content: first approaching CS - letters and sounds - learning processes.
Ch.3 Cut Spelling rules.
          1)letters irrelevant to pronunciation.
          2) shwa-vowels before L, M, N, R and in suffixes.
          3) doubled consonants.
Ch.4 Which letters are substituted?
Ch.5 Capital letters and apostrophes.
Ch.6 Going beyond CS - and stopping short.
Part II: Cut Spelling demonstrated: exercises for mastering CS.
Part III: Dictionary: to check CS forms against traditional spellings.
Suggestions for further reading.

2nd (revised and expanded) edition, 1996, ISBN 0 9506391 5 X.
Birmingham, UK: Simplified Spelling Society, viii + 340 pp.
Price £10 / US$20 (airmail supplement outside Europe £3 / US$6)
Available from Literature Secretary.
Downloadable files.)