These are International English Spelling Congress (IESC) Detailed Plans.
  • This is the 2nd edition, dated 2018-03-01.
  • Comments on these plans may be made through the Society Blog.

The essential elements of the IESC will be:

Before the first session

  • Publicity for the IESC and recruitment of participants in the IESC.
  • Circulation of our detailed plans (this paper) to participants and others via the website and other publicity.
  • Initial issue in draft of the proposed Guidance Notes for those wishing to submit proposals for alternative spelling systems.
  • Consideration of comments received on the draft Guidance.
  • Initial Revision of the Guidance in the light of these comments.
  • Issue of Agenda for first session of IESC.

During the first session

First session of the IESC, provisionally fixed for 30 May 2018; to be held as a webinar. (This is a form of online seminar accessible through the web to anyone with a home computer and access to the internet.) The proposed programme is as follows:

  1. Chair’s Welcome
  2. Talk 1 – Why is English Spelling so irregular?
  3. Talk 2 – What are the economic and social costs of irregular English spelling?
  4. Talk 3 – The History of Spelling Reform and why it hasn’t made much progress so far.
  5. Talk 4 – The IESC project.
  6. Talk 5 – The draft Guidance Notes for those wishing to submit new spelling proposals.
  7. Open session in which participants (and observers if there is time) can make comments and ask questions.
  8. Chair’s concluding remarks.

All talks will be pre-recorded and accompanied by Power Point and other illustrations. Average length of talk – 10 minutes. The event as a whole will be recorded and made available via the Society’s website.

Between the two sessions

  • Final revision of the Guidance in the light of debate at the first session of the IESC and other comments received.
  • Appointment of an Expert Commission, whose task will be to select about six alternative schemes from those submitted.
  • Participants are invited to submit proposals for alternative spelling schemes using a prescribed template.
  • Sifting by independent monitors of alternative spelling proposals received for forwarding to the commissioners. The object of this sifting is essentially to check that each proposal is complete and conforms to the official procedure.
  • If the commissioners conclude that there are insufficient proposals submitted that are suitable for shortlisting, they may of their own volition consider proposals published by persons living or dead which have not been submitted.
  • To provide the IESC with a genuine choice, the commissioners will be asked, when drawing up their shortlist, to select some that are more radical than others.

During the second session

Second session of IESC (probably in early 2019). This will provide for a live debate on the merits of the various proposals shortlisted.

After the second session

As soon as possible after the conclusion of the second session, a vote will be held on the final choice of an alternative system. As the choice will be between more than two proposals, there will be some form of preferential voting method.

The IESC will essentially have done its work when participants make their final choice on the best alternative spelling system. However, the second session of the Congress will be able to discuss what kind of action might be taken to encourage the take-up of this system. This discussion can be continued after the conclusion of the second session via the blog and other forums.


Page editor: S Linstead. Contact by email or form.
Did You Know:

• Ask your friend what Y-E-S spells. They won't have any difficulty saying yes. Then ask what E-Y-E-S spells. It's easy when it's written down, but surprisingly difficult when it's spoken. See a YouTube video of this.

• Who has not heard i before e, except after c. A University of Warwick statistician put it to the test. He plugged a list of 350,000 English words into a statistical program to see if the math checked out. It didn't.

• When Adam met Eve for the first time, he said Madam, I'm Adam. This is a palindrome — a phrase or sentence in which the letters, words or even lines read the same in either direction. Adam hoped to impress the most beautiful woman in the world, but she more than matched him by replying simply, Eve. Not bad given that writing, and therefore palindromes, and English ones in particular, had not yet been invented! More palindromes, and a wonderful palindromic poem.

• How would you pronounce ghoti? Pronounce it like this:

and you get ... fish! Thanks to Charles Ollier for writing this in 1855 — and for showing that English spelling has been ludicrous for quite some time.

• One of the arguments in favour of keeping English spelling unchanged is to show the etymology of words. For example, the silent s in island shows the link to the Latin insula. But island actually derives from the Old English íglund, not from the Latin at all. More examples at Mental Floss.


Page editor: N Paterson. Contact by email or form.

​Spelling reform is not a new idea!

Benjamin Franklin "The same is to be observed in all the letters, vowels, and consonants, that wherever they are met with, or in whatever company, their sound is always the same. It is also intended that there be no superfluous letters used in spelling, i.e. no letter that is not sounded [...]"  Franklin proposed a spelling scheme with 6 new letters. (Franklin 1806 p359)

Theodore Roosevelt "It is merely an attempt [...] to make our spelling a little less foolish and fantastic." Theodore Roosevelt promoted the Simplified Spelling Board's gradual reform (see Twain below). (Roosevelt 1906, p3)

Mark Twain "It is my belief that an effort at a slow and gradual change is not worth while. [...] It is the sudden changes [...] that have the best chance of winning in our day. Can we expect a sudden change in our spelling? I think not. But I wish I could see it tried. [...] By a sudden and comprehensive rush the present spelling could be entirely changed and the substitute spelling be accepted, all in the space of a couple of years; and preferred in another couple. But it won't happen, and I am as sorry as a dog." (Twain 1997, pp208-212)

Page editor: N Paterson. Contact by email or form.