[Spelling Progress Bulletin, Winter 1982 pp14-15]
[Also on this page: A fully planned program.]
[Chris Jolly: see Book, Journals, Newsletters, Media, Bulletins.]

SSS Conference 3: Development of Improvement in English Orthografy continued.

"Commercial and Marketing Considerations when Developing Orthographic Reform,"

by C.J.H. Jolly. London, England.

Abstract.

The main efforts of spelling reformers have quite rightly centred on making the teaching of English both easier and quicker by simplifying the orthography. however, by definition, almost all English users already write the language, and spelling reform would be an unwelcome change in their habits.

Commercial and marketing considerations are suggested which would help to make spelling reform a more welcome change. Like teachers, users of English are shown as living with a system that is wide open for improvement and how, by meeting their needs, orthographic reform can win more of the support necessary for acceptance.

Corpus.

My own background is that of Consumer Marketing and so this is the approach that I have used in considering the subject of this conference: Spelling: Research and Reform.

Marketing is about persuasion, in particular, how could we persuade people to change their behaviour. The changes we wish to see could broadly be achieved in one of three ways:

(1) We could advertise heavily, promote with competitions, sponsor sport championships, etc. However, I would estimate that Persil spend approximately £2m in this country each year to get over the message 'Persil washes whiter', so with our vastly more complicated message and meagre resources, this is not practical.

(2) The changes could come by legislation or imposition. Examples would be decimalization or a change from driving on the left. This would only really be effective where the government has close control and where only one system is admissable. It is doubtful whether a change in English spelling would be brought about in this way.

(3) Our proposals could gain increasing acceptance because leaders of society use or do or believe these things. These are the people you respect in that particular field - opinions from columnists in the Press, fashions worn by fashion leaders, and what Jane Fonda does with her spare time nowadays. This is probably the most powerful and effective route for us in the long term.

However, let's consider the problem further. We must distinguish between:
(1) the beneficiary of the change, and

(2) the decision maker for the change.
Children's brekfast cereals for instance, are for the benefit of the child, but bought by the mother. So it needs to include aspects such as 'promotes helthy growth' to ensure she will buy the product. The same applies in spelling reform. The prime beneficiaries are learners of English - that is, children or the person learning English as a second language. The decision maker, however, is the fluent English speaker because only by changing his behaviour will we bring about spelling reform. Here is the basic problem. We must find benefits for the fluent English speaker (and reader) if spelling reform is to have eny chance of success.

To provide such a benefit, we must identify problems and confusions experienced in using English today. Pointing out illogicalities is not enough. There must be pressure for change because the existing orthographic system is either too prone to mistakes or too cumbersome, requires frequent searches in the dictionary, and because the alternative overcomes these.

Let us look at an important area where this could apply: Alphanumeric codes. Alpha codes or alphanumeric codes have grown in use enormously over the last few decades. For Example, product descriptions (e.g. the Ford Cortina 2.3 GL car, Rolls Royce R3 211 aero engine, Castrol GTX oil), postcodes and vehicle number plates. If we drive from Edinburgh to Glasgow, we need to distinguish between the A8 and the M8 routes. Context alone is no guide as both go to Glasgow. When it comes to the code used for identifying hazardous substances by road tanker in the UK, the code even distinguishes between letters printed black on white from those printed white on black.

Here is an example taken from the current British Airways timetable:

London-Delhi
Day
Mo
Tu
Tu
Dep.
1000
1000
1005
Arr.
2305
0110
0315
via
non-stop
Frankfort
Kuwait,Dubai
Flight
AI116
AI102
BA147
Aircraft
747
747
L10

The code for the British Airways flight BA147 is clear enough, but what about the symbol for the first flight listed? In the timetable it looks like it starts Al, the chemical symbol for Aluminum. In fact, of course, it is Air India. But is there an Air India flight A116, one wonders, and is there ever eny confusion? And when you are settling into your seat for Air India flight 116 to New Delhi, spare a thought for your luggage which may be being stowed on the plane alongside Alitalia flight 116 to Naples. With such similarities, mistakes like this are easily made. Although the operator is to blame, in reality we have given him, and ourselves, a system which does not meet the demands of today. An example of the sort of mistake that our present day alphabet and numerals can produce came to light when I worked for Boots, the Chemist. Fortunately, the error was not important and so was never corrected. Here are the computer description of the two products involved:
Brief Case 3252 Black + Zip
Brief Case 34Z Black
The first description used to be 325Z because of the outside zip pocket to the case. Constant rewriting and the passage of time had changed it to 3252.

It is to avoid confusions of this kind that we often see these changes:
1 written as 1 to avoid confusion with I
and 7 is written 7
Z is written Z to avoid confusion with 2
the letter O is written [with a dot in the middle] to avoid confusion with zero, 0 or the number 0 is written Ø
Eny new system of English orthography should set out to redress problems of this nature.

An experiment by Brown and Hull showed the common errors made when copying from people's handwriting. Excluding the obvious confusions between 1 and I and between O and zero, the results were:
Errors made when copying from manuscript
Confusions of Z with 2 and 7 produced 10.2% of the errors
Confusions of 0 with 9 and 6 produced 5.7% of the errors
Confusions of S with 5 produced 4.6% of the errors
Confusions of D with 0 produced 2.0% of the errors
Confusions of H with 4 produced 1.6% of the errors
Confusions of T with 7 produced 1.5% of the errors
(By chance, errors of less than 0.2% would have been expected for each letter-digit or letter-letter confusion).

Another way of looking at the same problem was the experiment by Howell and Kraft showing responses to typescript, which found confusion between C-G-6, H-M-N, M-H, Q-O, S-5, 2-Z, 3-5, B-8, 9-P.

While interesting, I question the reliability of this research for our purposes and would suggest it needs to be rechecked.

Conrad and Hull showed that confusions could occur because letters and numbers sounded alike even though they were visually dissimilar. This was particularly so when letters and numbers had to be remembered before writing down in another location. There appears to be an acoustic as well as a visual element to the memory of these symbols:

Acoustic Similarity.
Common acoustic confusions between letters and digits between: V and 3, 5, 2; H-8; F-5; X-6; T-2.

Acoustic confusion between letters is particularly significant because most letters can be placed in groups that sound alike:
Group 1. B, C, D, E, G, P, T, V, Z (in USA) and sometimes Q
Group 2. A, M, N
Group 3. F, S, X
Group 4. Q, U
Group 5. O, A
It is notable that air traffic controllers have to use descriptions for letters but not for numbers to overcome this confusion. For Example, the letters in the first group are referred to as: Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Golf, Papa, Tango, Zulu, and Quebec respectively. We should expect a new system to use modified names for the letters so as to avoid the need for these secondary descriptions.

Note that the most commonly used letters in codes are also the most prone to the confusions described:
e.g. S for Super, Special, Sport, South
O for Ordinary, Old, Zero
I for International, Internal, Interior, Interest, etc.
In developing codes, enormous care has to be taken so as to prevent them being prone to errors. A typical postcode in the UK has two clusters of letters and numbers e.g. WC2A 1LB. The second of these clusters never uses certain letters because one of several errors could arise:
Visual: C (confusion with G), I, O, M (confusion with H)
Acoustic: V (confusion with 3)
Perception: K (confusion with X, C)
For the reasons given, we need to look seriously at the number, graphic form and description of the letters used in our alphabet as an integral part of orthographic reform, and this may be vital to its acceptance.

Let us move on from alphanumeric codes to a new field: Symbols. There are of course, some 200 commonly used symbols, of which everyday letters and numbers are a part. Besides punctuation (.,:;!?") and mathematical symbols (+-x>%∝√) 'there are a number of others that are widely recognized (*£$&#/°Δ) as well as the enormous number of corporate symbols. However we draw mostly from the Latin and Greek alphabets for our extra symbols. In one scientific dictionary, these few symbols are used for no less than 370 physical quantities. To take one symbol, alpha, it can represent:

Use of symbol alpha a
Plane angle
Angular velocity
Thermal diffusion factor
Linear expansion coefficient (in thermodynamics)
Magnetic polarizability
Light absortance
Acoustic absorption factor
Mesured in radians
Mesured in radians /sec2

Mesured in per degree C°

There are meny more uses for alpha as a symbol. It is also used to identify an atomic particle, the alpha particle.

The point of all this is that there is an enormous market for symbols in the academic community. Obviously, eny new symbol needs to be fixed in its form but with international agreement for its use in spelling, could get widely used elsewhere. Besides the academic community, new letter symbols could have a more dramatic use in the commercial world for product names. Phonetic spellings are often used to gain attention, e.g. Kwik Kopy, Kodak, and also numbers, e.g. 7up and 3M. New letters could get used to describe new products long before they were widely used in everyday. This could hasten their acceptance.

I would now like to draw your attention to one of the most crucial requirements for spelling reform, one which has not received the attention it deserves. That is the reform of the spelling of personal names and places. We cling to these very tightly and they are the last we would wish to change, but they are among the most needy of reform. They will have to be changed by legal action to preserve continuity of identity.

If we look at a telephone directory of place names or surnames, how meny can we be sure to pronounce correctly? Most perhaps, but not all. Taken the other way, if we could have eny pronunciation we asked for, we would still not get the spelling of some names. Here is the dilemma for eny communication that is by writing or by voice alone. Names would have a correct spelling for writing and a phonetic or reformed spelling for pronunciation, just as it is now in dictionaries. With the growing acceptance of the latter, it is reasonable to assume that it will slowly take over from the former. By this means, we have a method of avoiding the antagonisms that comes from imposing a change.

Considering the possibilities, there are probably three ways in which spelling reform could be introduced:
(1) in gradual steps, e.g. SR-1 and on.
(2) suddenly, as with the Turkish reform.
(3) by transition from one system to another, the two systems coexisting during the changeover.

To conclude, if it is to be successful, the introduction of orthographic reform really does need some convincing, non-conversational benefits for the fluent English speaker if it is to win the support of the very people who can make it happen.

-o0o-


[Spelling Progress Bulletin, Winter 1982 p1]
[Harvie Barnard: see Journal, Anthology and Bulletins.]

A Fully Planned Program for the Implementation of Spelling Reform,

by Harvie Barnard.

1. Agreement on a suitabl form of simplified spelling is important, altho not absolutely essentail, sins meny wuud-be reformers will continue to insist that their personal versions of reform are better than others.

2. Introduction to th' general public so as to popularize th' idea that simplification is an improvement over present spelling. Th' enlistment of well known cartoonists and writers wuud be needed to implement this popularization. Comic strip writers wuud be most desirabl, such as Hank Ketchum, producer of "Denis th' Menace." Such an approach may require subsidization as well as a well planned selling effort with aid in the form of material for the writers and artists to use in their creativ work.

3. Educational materials for th' teaching profession to utilize in a redy-to-uze form. Publishers of text materials beginning with primary teaching aids, fully developed, wuud be needed. Such materials wuud need professional introduction by influential educators who are known to th' profession as well as to th' publishing community. Th' materials developed for skool use wuud hav to be of top grade professional quality, suitabl for general public skool use.

4. Such materials wuud require testing by thoroly experienced teachers, perhaps at privat skools connected with universities and "special skools" where dramatic achievements cuud be demonstrated and th' results published widely.

5. A few well selected public skool systems must be chosen for further demonstration and testing.

6. Parallel with popularization efforts, business peopl and industrialists shuud be encourajed to proceed with actual use in inter-company as well as personal correspondence.

7. All parts of this program shuud receve widespred publicity in all branches of th' media, which shuud be redily acheved as soon as news of successful accomplishment is availabl. A public relations office wuud probably be needed to keep th' media well informed of progress.

8. When it has becum apparent that th' program is gaining acceptance, and not before, legislators on both state and national levels will becum interested, and at this point legislation shuud be introduced. It must be recognized that politicians are not leaders, but are followers. They are usually reluctant to introduce legislation, whether remedial or otherwise, until they are assured that it is "safe." When it becums apparent that spelling reform is an accepted success, they will flock to support it - like flies to honey and men to money. Legislation, insted of being th' first step, shuud be th' last - at which point it probably will not be needed, and will follow along like a caboose on a railroad train. Railroading spelling reform wuud be like putting th' caboose ahed of the engine; it cuud be dun, but it is highly unlikely!

(Ritten using "Altemativ"spelling.)

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