[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, 1993/2 p2 later designated J15]
[Also on this page Dr Seuss cartoon.
[See Journal, Newsletter, Anthology, SPB articles, and book Written Dialects by Kenneth Ives.]


Kenneth Ives.

In both Great Britain and the United States, spelling reformers are now engaged in discussions with educational authorities. In the last issue, the SSS submission to the National Curriculum Council was presented. In this issue are that Council's references to spelling, and a response from the SSS.

The SSS response calls for explicit rationales for phonics, "correct spelling", "regular" and: "'irregular' spellings. It calls for using letter sounds rather than letter names, the simplest ways of representing sounds, and eliminating some irregular spellings. If the material pupils need to learn is to be given adequate time, learning many of the irregularities of received English spellings must be viewed as a waste of time and effort.

In the United States, the first round of draft standards for English have appeared. The word "spelling" only occurs about 9 times in 65 pages, but with no analysis of spelling nor of the difficulties it causes. Hence your editor urged the project to give explicit attention to spelling, and submitted five proposed standards:

1. Pupils be encouraged to use their own approximate ("invented") spellings during the First Grade in school.

2. Standard regularized spellings for English be developed (with the National Information Standards Organization) for use as an aid to phonics instruction. Use of such standardized spellings by pupils be encouraged thru Second Grade.

3. No standards for use of traditional received spellings be established prior to the end of Third Grade.

4. Establish as preferred spellings those common more phonemic versions already found in most dictionaries: altho, tho, thru, thruout, thoro, thoroly; dropt, fixt, mixt, spelt, stopt, programer, catalog, dialog, prolog. Also their derivatives.

These words make up 0.2 % of an average text.

Encourage their use in professional journals, textbooks and story books.

5. Encourage the use of regularized (or hybrid) spellings for first drafts, and teach copy editing for the intended audience, including computer spelling check programs.

These proposed standards need to be widely publicized and discussed, at reading conferences and elsewhere. Articles and notices including them could well be sent to reading journals, and shorter notes about them to other journals.


Several sources in recent reading conferences and journals indicate that, overall, no one teaching strategy - language experience, whole language, phonics - is demonstrably more successful, nor less successful, than basals and other traditional methods.

Steven Stahl, at the Great Lakes Regional IRA Reading Conference in September argued persuasively for an eclectic approach, in his talk "What Did We Do Before Whole Language, and What Will We Do Afterwards?" The best teachers vary their tactics to fit varied pupils and problems.

This would indicate that spelling reformers need to forge alliances with at least several "schools of thought' in the field.

Patrick Groff, in his guest editorial in the last issue, argued strongly for an alliance with the developmental spelling movement. Alliances would also seem desirable with the Language Experience, Whole Language, phonics, and English as a Second Language movements, and with those who use or advocate ITA.

Thus spelling reformers need to produce and distribute introductory leaflets and sample materials for each of these movements.

Regularized materials.

A major problem is in coordinating phonics with other approaches. Here is where fully or partly regularized spellings, such as American Literacy Council is field testing, can help. They can considerably simplify initial phonics instruction, and help delay the confusions of irregularities until a firm base in phonics is achieved. They can also pave the way for acceptance of some simplifications as pupils familiar with them become adults.

Ronald Threadgall, in this issue, stresses the importance of early school materials in a consistent spelling. Can the spelling reform movement assist some publishers of successful First and Second Grade materials to produce an edition in a consistent spelling? If these should sell well some other materials in simpler spellings may find a market too.


Popularizing such materials is a major challenge. Lessons from the experiences in India, reported in "Towards Roman Lipi", in this issue, can be adapted to efforts of spelling reformers in English.

Dr Seuss cartoon.

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