[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, 1993/1, p19 later designated J14]
[Also on this page: Revew of Storyspell.]
[Kenneth Ives: see Journals, Newsletters, Anthology, Bulletins, Book Written Dialects.]


to a broader program of Spelling Reform.

Kenneth Ives.

Cut Spelling is an approach to spelling reform which needed to be thoroly explored. It is simple, easily understood, and seems able to catch the public imagination. Chris Upward has done a thoro job of developing its possibilities. Now we can evaluate various of its proposals in detail.

From the detailed analysis of Cut Spelling by Chris Upward, and the commentaries on it by Valerie Yule and Edward Rondthaler, it seems that two types of cut spelling are fairly clear and uncontroversial.

A. Those Cut Spellings which remove silent letters, and thereby bring spelling into New Spelling or other regular spelling patterns.

B. Cut Spellings which simplify words without creating ambiguities or unduly long consonant strings.

Several other types of Cut Spellings present more difficulties.

C. Cut Spellings which result in long consonant strings.

D. Those which drop a vowel in a common suffix <-ing, -ment>, or a final vowel in a prefix.

E. Those which result in a confusion of rules for pronouncing similar spellings.

This essay seeks to detail types A and B, and to divide their examples into spelling types which can be put together into reform steps. For ease of teaching, learning, and using, each step should have one or two types of change, and not over 30 of its most common words listed for initial learning.

1. Some more phonemic spellings which are already accepted alternates in many dictionaries:
altho, tho, thru, thruout,
and American standard forms,
program, programer, favor, labor.

2. Other <ough, augh, aigh> words:
caut, taut; strait ("straight").

3. "Short vowel consonant <e>" spellings, which thus violate the rule that "final <e> makes the preceding vowel long!":
a) hav, havn't.
b) giv, liv, active, executiv, nativ, twelv.
c) determin, examin.
d) definit.
e) ar, arn't.
f) wer, wern't.

4. Other silent "e" endings.
a) mor, before.
b) els, defense, hors, hous.

5. Other silent vowels.
a) previus, serius, varius.
b) alredy, hed, hevy, redy.
c) hart

6. Silent consonants.
a) kn,gn=n:no; campain, foren.
b) wh=h: hole.
c) haf, tord, rong

7. Doubled consonants.
a) ll: alow, bil, dwel, fil, folo, hil, il, kil, mil, sel, shal, shel, skil, stil, tel, til, wel, wil.
b) ss: acros, clas, expres, les, los, mas, mis, pas, posibl, pres, progres, unles, witnes.
c) rr: cary, corespond, teribl, teritory, tomoro.
d) dificult, efect; imens; begining; suply, suport; geting.

8. Post-accentual schwa, syllabic "l, m, n, r".
a) batl, handl, litl, loyl, mentl, midl, norml, setl, totl, trubl, vesl.
b) problm.
c) drivn, gardn, hapn, hevn, lesn, lisn, opn, litn, wagn.
d) administr, aftr, altogethr, ansr, betr, caractr, chaptr, difr, dolr, furthr, gathr, latr, letr, manr, mastr, matr, membr, nevr, numbr, ovr, quartr, rivr, sholdr, sufr, sumr, undr, utr, watr, wethr, wintr

The 141 listed words and their derivatives account for 6.3% in an average text (Dewey 1950). This figure excludes words occuring one in 10,000 or less, and those requiring other changes beyond dropping superfluous leters.

The "post-accentual schwa" list comes to 1.4% of words. It requires redefining a syllable to include syllabic "l, m, n, r" in final unstressed position.

Including those, full application of Cut Spelling types A and B would bring words affected to about 12.5%. Clearly then, Cut Spellings form an important part of any larger program of spelling reform.


Dewey, Godfrey (1950). Relativ Frequency of English Spellings. Tables 5 & 6. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.

[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, 1993/1, p28,29 later designated J14]
[Jean Hutchins: see Journals, Newsletters.]

Jean Hutchins reviews

Brenda Bryant StorySpell.

Teacher's Resource Book and Whole Language Program for Infants.
Brenda Bryant StorySpell, Martin Education, Australia, 1992. Jean Hutchins is a Specialist Dyslexia Teacher, as well as Chair of the British Dyslexia Association Computer Committee and Committee Member of the Simplified Spelling Society. She was also a member of the Society's Cut Spelling Working Group.
It is clear that a great deal of successful experience has enabled this programme to evolve. There are many good ideas in it, teaching principles as well as the particular strategy of StorySpell spelling. If all infant teaching were as structured as this, there might be little need for the expensive Reading Recovery Scheme for six year olds of Dame Marie Clay, which originated in New Zealand, and has been taken up in Australia, the USA and now the UK.

During the 1980s schools were encouraged and expected to devise language development programmes. Now the National Curriculum sets out areas to be covered by all age groups, so teachers may not have time to use as many of the interesting integrated activities based on the sound for the lesson as they would like to choose.

The book begins by stating Brenda Bryant's reasons for teaching reception class pupils to spell each sound in one way only to start with. She describes her approach to free writing from transcription by the teacher, through stages of supported writing to independent work. The greater part of the StorySpell book is devoted to reinforcing the sounds one by one.

The English/Welsh National Curriculum says that children must learn letter-sound relationships, phonics and correct spelling. So the ideas in this book are more acceptable than they might have been up to a year or so ago. Many schools in England use Lyn Wendon's pictograms of the Letterland programme. In a similar way to StorySpell, Letterland has stories, songs, activities and games to reinforce the knowledge. There are other programmes, and specialist dyslexia teachers all use pictures as keywords for sound/symbol relationship, and teach one standard way of writing each sound before going on to alternative spellings.

Some areas of England went through a phase of Emergent Spelling, when children spelled as they wished for uninhibited free writing. When done properly, spelling instruction accompanied Emergent Spelling, so standard spelling was gradually learned. It is now accepted that children go, however slowly or quickly, through a phase of phonic spelling before internalizing traditional orthography (TO).

Regarding Brenda Bryant's particular scheme, it is interesting that she says her pupils were not confused by reading TO while they used StorySpell writing. This emphasizes the fact that reading and spelling are very different skills, and that children often do not recall the spelling of words they can read.

She does not say what the parents thought of the scheme. This information is necessary for evaluation, as the i.t.a. (Initial Teaching Alphabet), which had additional letters to represent separately all 44 sounds, survives in very few schools now because parents thought it looked strange and confusing.

Members of the SSS, and teachers, will be interested in the choice and presentation of the 40 sounds in the StorySpell scheme, which uses the following letters to represent them:
There could be endless discussions about the merits of sound-symbol correspondences Brenda Bryant chooses for early written work by her pupils, but at least she is getting on with the job of teaching!

The long vowels can have 'teacher-only' pictographic additions, eg a halo over 'angel-A', although it seems unnecessary to have different marks for each of the five vowel letters. After all the forty sounds have been introduced en bloc, and gradually reinforced, alternative spellings are linked in; and work begins on common irregular spellings, eg was, saw, said, because.

It is quite impossible - as it was with i.t.a. - to tell whether it is the structured, step-by-step, individualized methodology that is the crucial factor in the success of StorySpell, or whether it is the emphasis on 'one sound, one spelling' for initial teaching. I have no doubt that such an enterprising teacher would be very successful anyway. The children will write confidently, and writing will help reading. However, children without good visual memories may have difficulty unlearning phonic spellings which have become automatized. Brenda Bryant recommends that teachers should translate all pupil writing into standard spelling (TO) for reading purposes, but pupils might persist in spellings to which they had become accustomed, such as:

mi dad tooc me too sidne. we sor the octapos in the acwairium. it lookdt feyas.

The ideal would still be to find an acceptable simplified spelling and for all of us to keep to it for the rest of our lives! Until we achieve that aim, teaching on the lines of StorySpell will benefit reception class pupils.

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