(Simplified Spelling Society Newsletter Autumn 1985 pp10-14. Later designated Journal 1)

Spelling for the Computer Age or How English shd be Ritun [1]

Abraham F. Citron

[Professor Citron is Executive Vice-President of Better Education thru Simplified Spelling of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and advocates an abbreviated orthography, Speed Spelling, or SPD SPLG.]

I.

The more common the number, the fewer the digits required to write it. Thus, 0 thru 9 are written with one digit, 10 thru 99 are written with two, 100 thru 999 are written with three, and so on in a regular progression. Our written language has worked out a similar, but irregular pattern; by and large our more common words are written with fewer letters.

In an age of computers and telecommunications, we need a writing system characterized by functionality, ease of learning and speed of use. The first quality sought in spelling reform must be more regularity of letter to sound and of sound to letter, that is, more phonemic spelling. The second quality must he brevity and greater regularization of the principle that our very common words be expressed with fewest letters. Speed Spelling (SPD SPLG) is an expression of both these qualities.

The ultimate economy of a written word is a single letter. Following the Latin example (Latin has only three one-letter words, all formed from vowels: a, e, o) and obedient to the mythology of English written forms, English, altho using 26 letters, has developed only three one-letter words, a, I, O, all formed from vowels.

The mythology holds that no single consonant can form an English written word. The rule-makers, many Latin-trained, have felt that since no consonant, alone, can be pronounced, uttered or articulated, no consonant, alone, can express a written word. We cannot utter just b or p or m, say the purists, utterance of such sounds requires that at least one vowel be added. The rule-makers have therefore taught that no single consonant be written (it cannot be read!) for an English word.

Clergy, scribes, academicians, scholars, pseudo-scholars, the nobility, the genteel and leisure-class writers of English during the first thousand years of its history were not interested in speed, efficiency, or one-letter words. Thus, we see today that English has developed only three single-letter words.

But is this analysis complete? What of punctuation and other signs (like those used in mathematics) which have been developed in English writing? What of our period, question mark, exclamation mark, comma, colon, semicolon, apostrophe, quotation marks, parentheses, asterisk and other signs? Here are ten signs (more could be noted) each carrying a meaning that we easily read, but in no case spelled out. These are all used in the so-called purity of a written system that supposedly uses only spelled-out words. (If a written word is a written sign of one or more characters, isolated from the rest of text by a space, and carrying a meaning, then punctuation signs are words.) The space between words is also meaningful.

The rule-makers, here as elsewhere, have been insisting on an erroneous rule. Signs that are not spelled out, single-character signs, can carry meaning, can be 'read' perfectly, and many of them are used. Thus we discover that, theoretically, there is nothing wrong with single consonants representing words. Further, we can intersperse non-spelled signs with spelled words without damaging meaning or speed. 'Purity' of text is a myth.

So well do we know our numbers and punctuation marks, and we learned them so long ago, that we have forgotten that there was a time when they were strange to us. We have learned them by memorization and association. Every time we see a '?' the idea of a question pops into our heads with the speed of light. This is so fast that it appears to be instantaneous. This associative power we possess, often lightning-like in its speed, is marvelous, beyond our present understanding, but a fact.

II.

We thus arrive at the idea that English should make good use of the denied consonants, that we should develop 25 additional single-letter words. These 25 single-letter words should be substituted for 25 of our present common or very common multi-letter words. We do not assign A since it is already a word. We can use lower case I and lower case O, spelling the exclamation Oe. What words should these single-letter words be? (Of course we will use all the vowels except A also.)

The first three are obvious. The word be (very common with a frequency of 6,377 per million written words) can be assigned to the letter B, since the name of the letter is exactly like the sound of the word be. Thus we can write: "What will you b when you grow up?"

On the same principle, are (frequency 4,393) can be assigned to R, and you (frequency 3,286) to U. Classicists, traditionalists, some linguists, purists will immediately object on the basis that, as these three letters are used, they represent sounds in addition to their alphabetic names, and that therefore the children will be confused. However, preliminary testing using these and other one-letter words with classes of fifth and sixth grade students, shows that these students learn easily, quickly to read these single-letter words. There is no confusion!

For the other single-letter words we move, with some exceptions, to a different principle: the principle of the word with the greatest frequency [2] beginning with a given letter. What is the most common word beginning with C? (C is always hard in SPD SPLG.) This is found to be can with a frequency of 1,722; therefore we assign can to C. In like manner do is assigned to D, even to E, for to F, good to G (there are no soft Gs), he to H, and so on. We assign lower case I to in; when in begins a sentence it can be spelled as In.

There are six exceptions. As and is the third most common of all our words (freq. = 28,852) it should be written by a single letter, but A is in use. However, since we often say 'bread 'n butter', 'in 'n out', 'up 'n down', etc., it is practical to assign N to and. Professional is the most common P word, but since it is often written as pro, we select the next most common P word, which is people. The most common Q word is quite, but as it can be spelled (SPD SPLG) as qyt, we assign Q to the second most common Q word, question. The most common W word is was, which SPD SPLG spells as wz, so we use the second most popular W word, which is with. Words beginning with X are too esoteric to be worth representing. However, words beginning with the sound X are rather common. The most common is experience, which can be represented by X. Is is so common (freq. = 10,099) that it must be represented, but I is in use. However, the Z sound in /iz/ is strong, obvious, so we assign is to Z.

In a 30-minute discussion-drill-test period, 4 classes of fifth and sixth graders became familiar with 8 of these single-letter words: T=the, O=of, N=and, F=for, W=with, B=be, R=are, U=you. Except for only two or three of the poorer readers in each class these students read these one letter words swiftly and accurately in a brief story. They enjoyed this session as a 'spelling game'.

How do these words appear in text and what can be achieved with them? Here are some examples:

How are you = 9 letters,
How r u = 5 letters, saving 44%;

I can do what you can do = 18 letters,
I c d wht u c d = 9 letters, saving 50%;

To be or not to be, that is the question = 30 letters,
Tu b or nt tu b, tt z t q = 15 letters, saving 50%;

Do you have the experience for the job? = 31 letters,
D u hav t x f t job? = 12 letters, saving 61%;

Can you lend the the money? = 20 letters,
C u lend me t muny? = 13 letters, saving 35%;

It is good of you to talk with me = 25 letters
It z g o u tu tauk w me = 15 letters, saving 40%.

It will have been noted that in these examples a number of two- and three-letter words, also from the '100 Speed Words' (list available), have been used.

The above texts were chosen to demonstrate top saving levels that can be achieved with one-letter words (and a few other short forms). Please note also the important savings of space.

These words are very common. Total frequency for them is 222,839, which means that in a representative million words, these words would occur 222,839 times. Thus one may say that any child or adult who masters these 25 words will have at command over 22% of the words needed to write and read English at a fully acceptable level. One may also say that if these 25 words are adopted, then, with A and I (total frequency 251,249), over 25% of the words needed to write and read English (acceptable adult level) would be one-letter words.

Since the average American-English word uses 5½ letters, a million words involves about 5,500,000 letters. If we write a million words, using these 25 single letter words, we will save approximately 382,005 letters, which is 6.96% of 5,500,000. Thus, writers of English would save nearly 7% of their time and effort.

Surely a great thrill of learning and of growing is learning to write. The simplicity, speed, ease with which these one-letter words are written can encourage children to learn to write. Learning to write involves learning to read, which encourages learning to write and so on.

If children are taught these letter-meanings in pre-school, and in the first, second, third grades (experience might wait until the second grade), if they are taught to write as well as read them in texts, if they are thoroughly drilled in them, so that recognition is sure, automatic, instantaneous, then these words can become an excellent base for learning to write and read.

Once sure association is achieved, three qualities of response can be observed:

1) the response is reliable, it always occurs;
2) it is fast, without hesitation;
3) it is smooth, without conscious thought.

From the point of view of teaching and learning, three results are achieved by automatic association of meaning with a limited number of one-letter signs:

1) automatic association is sure, eliminating doubt; it produces security;
2) automatic association eliminates the need to think about the meaning of the single symbols; meaning is at instant command;
3) the automatic association of meaning to common words provides a secure base for decoding other words.

With more or less practice, experience, drill, all normal range students can become automatic with these 25 one-letter words. Such response will enable fast students to become faster and will constitute an important aid to slow students in learning to write and to read. [3]

III.

In the '100 Speed Words', 28 are spelled with two letters. Five of these (hu, nu, tu, se, hy ) are phonemic because in SPD SPLG all final U's ar long, all final E's are long, and Y is used as long I. Twenty two of these two-letter words are spelled in consonant outline. This is to say they are spelled using the first and the last consonant of the word. In all cases the first consonant is also the first letter of the word as spelled in t.o. Thus that is spelled as tt; been is spelled as bn; could is spelled as cd. Was is spelled as wz, since was is sounded as wuz. One word, without, is spelled wo, by using the first letter of with and the first letter of out.

There is nothing new in spelling in consonant outline. This has been the basis of shorthand, and many of us, in a hurry, have written cm for come, or wd for would, or bf for before, wr for were. The consonant outline strongly suggests the sound of the word we mean, and is almost always interpreted (with the aid of the context) correctly.

If a child knows the meanings of these words, speaks them, uses them, knows the sounds of the letters of the alphabet, then associating the two-letter spellings of these words with their meanings will not be difficult. It is much easier to team hz for his than his; it is easier to learn sd for said than said, and so on down the list.

Twenty-six of the 100 Speed Words require three letters. We can see now that frequencies are dropping. These are still common words, but, as a group, not as common as the one-letter or the two-letter words. We find these 26 composed of three groups.

First there is a group of 9 phonemically spelled words: hav, wil, tym, yur, wel, hir, myt, duz, tho.

Then there are 14 consonant outlines: ths, wch, thr, whn, wht, thm, thn, mst, whr, shd, bcz, ltl, nvr, hvr.

Over is spelled as ovr and every as evy; these two words use an opening vowel and then two consonants to outline the sound of the words represented.

Finally, in SPD SPLG, to maintain differential spelling of no and know, they are spelled no and noe . (Final E in SPD SPLG is long as in se, tre, we, me, fre, gle, etc. However, after O it is used as a sign that the O is long, as in hoem, groe, floen, bloen, moen, Oe, noe, etc.)

The fifteen four-letter words are in 3 groups. First a group of 9 phonemically spelled words: ther (their), thru, stil, sins, whyl, hows, cors, enuf, muny. Second, a group of four consonant outline words: political = plcl, himself = hmsf, business = bzns, committee = cmty.

Third, there are 2 words spelled in vowel-consonant outline: education = edcn, secretary = secy.

The six five-letter words are: against = ugnst, thought = thaut, school = scool, something = smthg, college = colij, knowledge = nolij. The full list of these words, with frequencies, is available as explained at the end.

We are now in a position to make some statements about the savings achieved if the 100 Speed Words are used. Their frequencies, per million representative words of text, total 379,919. This means that the mastery of these words would equip a child or adult with 37.9% of the words needed to write English at college level.

Secondly, the total letters saved over t.o. per million written words is 587,069. This is 10.65% of 5,500,000 letters in a million words. We can therefore say that if these hundred words are used, writers of English would save over 10% of the time and effort involved. They would also save over 6% of the space required.

IV.

The second component of SPD SPLG consists of eight prefix and suffix simplifications, as follows:

1 Prefix com or con (unstressed) = cm or cn: cmit, cmand, cmpleet, cmpeet, cntrol, cntmpt, cntayn, etc.
2 Suffixes -cion, -sion, -tion = n: suspicion = suspin, tension = tenn, objection = objecn, national = nanul.
3 Suffix -ing = g : jumpg, luvg, sgg (singing), clgg,etc. If adding G forms a word (rung ), use -ing (runing ).
4 Suffix -ed sounded as /d/ = -d: drownd, injurd, plowd, clownd, kild,fild, pilfurd, cluturd, drild, etc.
5 Suffix -ed sounded as /t/ = -t: stopt, dropt, drest, blest, mopt, cnfest, suprest, hopt, etc.
6 Sufix -le (unstressed) = -1 : trubl, botl, fidl, catl, taybl, bubl, sutl, ridl, candl, etc.
7 Suffixes -mant, -ment = -mt : adumt, cntentmnt, rezentmt, fuulfilmt, divelupmt, etc.
8 Suffixes -ant, -ent = -nt : elufnt, importnt, prezudnt, pleznt, etc.

The third and final component of SPD SPLG consists of the 64 rules for Natural Spelling, in which the vast majority of the some 600,000 English words would be written. These rules provide for the use of the letters of the alphabet with greater reliability than in t.o. These rules, with examples, are found in the Appendix.

V.

The spelling achieved thru these three elements or components is easy to learn, fast to use, saves time and space. Several examples follow, with letter savings.

How does this spelling perform? 26
How duz ths splg purform? 20 saving 23%;

Do you have the money? 17
D u hav t muny? 10 saving 41%;

Let's conduct our business in the committee room. 40
Let's cnduct owr bzns i t cmty room 27 saving 32%;

We can quote you a better price. 25
We c qoet u a betur prys. 18 saving 28%;

We can guarantee delivery by the first of the month. 42
We c gerunte delivury by t furst o t munth. 33 saving 21%.

Without extensive comparison of texts it is impossible to quantify the average saving of SPD SPLG. Savings of examples given here range from 14% to 61%.

It is found that in general, simple (short word) vocabularies result in greater savings while complex (longer word) texts result in smaller savings. For example:

You keep that up and you will catch it from me. 36
U keep tt up n u wil cach it fm me. 24 saving 33%;

If you continue to annoy me dire consequences will ensue. 47
If u cntinue tu unoy me dyr consuqensez wil ensoo. 40 saving 14%

Savings in newspaper texts (limited sample) show an average range of 12% to 23%. Newspaper materials contain many names of persons and places which are unaffected by SPD SPLG. Savings in business materials (limited sampling), including letters, memos, reports, advertising, range from 10% to 30%. In children's materials, changing The Little Red Hen to SPD SPLG produces a 25% saving. When Mary Had a Little Lamb is written in SPD SPLG, a saving of 22.9% results.

Some feel that spelling reform will 'ruin' poetry, but this is short-sighted. Once readers are used to the appearance of SPD SPLG forms, much of poetry becomes more vivid. The spelling is less intrusive, less a barrier. It is as if the poet can speak more directly to the reader. This is all the more true of poetry that emphasizes the sounds of words, the rhythms and cadence of the lines. SPD SPLG enhances the rhythms of poetry. Some examples follow. (When reading the SPD SPLG lines try to imagine that this is the spelling in which you learned to read. If these lines are read, put aside, read again in two days, and again in two or three days, the spelling will begin to appear 'right'. It will begin to fit the words.)

Wm. Blake.

Tiger! Tiger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
Tygur! Tygur! burng bryt
In t forests o t nyt
Wht imortul hand or ie
Cd fraym thy firfuul simutry?
Saving 19%.
Wm. Shakespeare.

Double, double, toil and trouble,
Fire burn and cauldron bubble!

Dubl, dubl, toyl n trubl,
Fyr burn n cauldron bubl!
Saving 24%

VI.

In this paper two spirits, one called up, the other aroused, are immediately at war.

The first springs from a deep element of the American character. It is a down-to-earth practicality, the spirit of what works. On the frontier people were forced to discover, respect, live by, what worked. The main test of staying alive, raising a crop, a cabin, a house, in making a living, getting anything 'done', was: does it work? This spirit, motif, called up by this paper, is immediately challenged. An attitude and ideal, outraged by much that is written here is the spirit of the King's English. For, altho a great force in the maintenance of traditional written forms is well-set habits, deeply ingrained habits, a greater force is the general desire to write the English of the King. This is the devout desire of all who set words down that their spelling will display nobility (of spirit), education, gentility, closeness to the standards of the court and of the King. Our spelling reflects, so we feel, our social class, our gentility, our social worth. Our spelling, therefore, must reflect the standards of the King. ('The King' is a historical metaphor; we in the USA have no King, but what we seek is the 'noblest' standard, the safest, the most respected standards available.)

The usual outcome is the calm and immediate throttling of any suggestion of change by the awesome power of following respected authority in written forms. However, in this age, do not rule out practicality. Perhaps reform of our inefficient spelling forms is an idea whose time has come. Perhaps, in this age, SPD SPLG will play a key role in the resurgence of civilization of the West. New odes await their authors, an invigorated literature, a new birth of education, of writing, of science, religion and law, of commerce and industry can be just over the horizon.

If resurgence comes, it will not be by the sword, but by the word.

(A list of the 100 Speed Words, with their frequencies and letter-savings appeared on the penultimate page of the February Simplified Spelling Society Newsletter. Editor)

APPENDIX.

SPD SPLG Rules of Natural Spelling.

1 Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, current edition is the pronunciation base.
2 Personal names, proper names, proper nouns are not affected.
3 Foreign phrases such as eureka, ecce homo, esprit de corps are not affected because users wish readers to know such phrases are foreign.
4 Homonyms distinguished in t.o. remain distinguished: to, too, two = tu, too, tw ; there, their = thr, ther; tale, tail = tayl, tail, etc.
5 Consonants are not doubled except when
     a) both letters are sounded: actual = acchooul.
     b) used to differentiate homonyms: sent, cent = sent, sentt ; bear, bare = ber, berr ; sun, son = sun, sunn; bury, berry = bery, berry; fairy,ferry =fery,ferry.
6 All other silent letters are eliminated.
7 A (long a) = ai : to differentiate homonyms: sale, sail = sayl, sail ; male, mail = mayl, mail; tale, tail = tayl, fail, etc.
8 A (long a). All final A's are long: da, sa, ma, la, ga, ra, na, pla, tra, tuda, cla, etc.
9 A (long a). Beginning or midwords = ay: ayt, fayt, dayt, gray, naybur, creeayt, etc.
10 A (wide a) = ah : ah, hah, bah, mahtwh; before R = a: star, far, dark, cart, etc.
11 A (short a) = a : cat, bat, platur, ceractur, etc.
12 AU, AW. Initial sound or midword = au : auto, authur, inauthentic; = aw at end of word: law, saw, caw, raw, draw, etc.
13 AHJ = ahj : garahj, mirahj, pursiflahj, etc.
14 B = b: but, bubl, combat, best, aybl, etc.
15 C (/k/) = c (always hard): cat, can, arctic, cemist.
16 CH (/tʃ/) = ch : church, chip, senchury, acchoouly, fech, cach, etc.
17 D = d: dud, dip, doodl, difur.
18 E (long e). All final E's are long: me we se thre tre (except after O: noe, oe).
19 E (long e). Initial or midword = ee : eet, feet, eeqal, creeayt, beleev, etc.
20 E (long e). Final unstressed sound after L, R, etc: = y : mery, fery, boldly, hotly, etc.
21 E (long e). Final stressed syllable = ee : apujee, perujee, purolee, etc.
22 E (short e) = e : bed, set, ded, any, nwny, helth, cer.
23 F = fat, fanfer, flu, fy, foto, graf, etc.
24 G (/g/) = g (always hard): gag, get, jygantic, strugl
25 H = h : ho, hot, inhibit, helo, unhapy, etc..
26 I (long i). The word I = always upper case = I.
27 I (long i). Initial position = ie : iedeeuh, ietem, ievry, iesosuleez, etc.
28 I (long i). Midword or stressed ending = y: dy, by, sky, delyt, nyt, reply, deny, etc.
29 I (short i) = i : it, bit, hit, inhibit, benufit, print, etc.
30 I (ion as in million) = uen : miluen, biluen, buuluen.
31 J = j : jump, jak, jenurul, trajic, jet, jem, etc.
32 K (where traditional spelling uses K, except where K is silent) = k : kit, kil, kichun, kitun, kik, brik, kept, kynd, etc.
33 L l: lap, laydl, ly, culur, colur, long, fuul, etc.
34 M m : man, memury, minimum, murmur, etc.
35 N n : no, nip, inturn, mention = menn, nation nayn, inusent, etc.
36 NK = nk : bank, tank, sink, blink, etc.
37 O (long o). All final O's are long: ziro, go, no, putayto, tumayto, etc.
38 O (long o). Preceding L or R = o : or, cor, dor, col, gol, gold, old, etc.
39 O (long o). On both sides of a consonant = o : hobo, lobo, foto, dodo, gogo, etc.
40 O (long o). Initial sound or midword = oe : oek-, ocean = oen, goet, foek, etc.
41 O (short o) = o : tot, hot, shot, object, fothur, forgot, nok, etc.
42 OI = oi : joy, ploy, poynt, joynt, uhoy, oyntmt, etc.
43 OO between two consonants = oo : boot, cool, drool, fool, pool, moor, scool, etc.
44 OW = ow: cow, brow, how, now, clown, down, owt, mownd, etc.
45 ONG = ong: long, song, tong, gong, strong, etc.
46 P = p peep, pepur, entempt, cupi, propel, pump, etc.
47 Q = q (since Q is always followed by U, the U is omitted): qyt, qyut, qik, etc.
48 R = r: ror, rip, roest, irutayt, rubur, letur, etc.
49 S = s : sleep, les, mes, nesusery, nesesuty, noosuns, syt, etc.
50 SH = sh: shur, shor, shayp, wish, wash, shaym, etc.
51 T = t: tot, tatl, tym, catl, braut, etc.
52 TH (both soft and hard th) = th: ths, thm, thay, thr, thoez, thump, lyth, etc.
53 U (long u). All final U's are long = u : u, nu, hu, shu, tru, tu, glu, etc.
54 U (long U). On both sides of a consonant = u : tutu, juju, cucu, etc.
55 U (short u, schwa sound) = u : nesusery, milutery, difucult, terubl, etc.
56 U (short u) = u : up, but, tut, clutur, butur, rut, supur, etc.
57 UE When t.o. uses U or UE to express 'yoo' sound, SPD SPLG uses ue : ues, uez, uenyted, buetifuul, uesfuul, produes, proseeduer, etc.
58 UH (schwa sound ending a word) = uh : dramuh, bananuh, bandanuh, etc.
59 V = v : valv, hav, vivayshus, vow, invalueubl, vys.
60 W = w : wow, win, wethur, whip, why, one = wn.
61 X = x xsept, xpect, xit, xytmt, thanx, pranx, x-ray.
62 Y = y yung, yooth, yes, yip, yelo, yel, yur, yurz, etc (as consonant).
63 Z = z : ziro, haz, zip, zu, layzy, legz , figz, daugz.
64 ZH = zh : pleasure = plezhr, measure = mezhr, treasure = trezhr, etc.
65 OU = uu: puul,fuul, buul, bruuk, wuul, etc.

Footnotes.

[1] Speed Spelling (SPD SPLG) advocated in this paper has three components: a) the Hundred Speed Words, b) eight prefix and suffix simplifications, c) the set of rules for Natural Spelling. It is recommended that SPD SPLG be introduced in stages over a period of ten to twelve years.

[2] 'Frequency' means number of times used in a million representative American English written words from newspapers, fiction, textbooks, business, commerce, finance, science, law, private correspondence, manuals, newsletters, recorded speeches, etc. Frequencies are taken from Henry Kucera and W. Nelson Francis Computational Analysis of Present-Day American English, Brown University Press, Providence, R.I., pp. 6-10.

[3] During the first few years of the reform, when publishers are catching up on demand, students will see many materials in t.o. Therefore, during this period it will be necessary to teach students to read both t.o. and SPD SPLG, but to write only SPD SPLG.

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