[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, J20, 1996/1 p2]
[See Journal and Newsletter articles, Pamflet 15, Cut Spelling and Papers by Chris Upward.]

Editorial by Chris Upward.

Spanning oceans and continents.

With this issue, production of the JSSS returns to the UK, after four successful years under Ken Ives' editorship in the USA. Small the SSS may be, but it truly spans the oceans and continents, as indeed a movement for reforming the spelling of world English must.

The new information technologies, now developing with breathtaking speed, suggest new opportunities for internationalizing our operations, as Bob Brown (see our Tribute to him) hinted in his last Newsletter (pp5, 11). At his last AGM, he looked round at the essentially southeast English members of the Committee, and reflected that in the future our international Society might no longer need such a geographically tight nucleus. Could our policy decisions before long be taken via the Internet by committee members spanning the world? The technology is already there, only waiting to be applied.

Since its foundation in 1908 the SSS has been conscious of the international implications of its work (hence its collaboration with the American Simplified Spelling Board in the first half of this century). And in recent years SSS members have travelled between America, Australia, Europe, India, Japan and New Zealand, networking with reformers in other countries and continents. Building on this, the Internet may soon permit the international co-ordination of our lobbying, so that an essentially united message can be presented to whatever governmental or other bodies we may wish to influence around the world.

American spellings as world standard?

In the past, the SSS's credibility long suffered from the natural and necessary concentration by members on their own reform proposals, without offering the public clear guidance as to which might in practice deserve priority. The role the Society has more recently adopted, as a forum for airing ideas and research findings, transcends that earlier individualism and earns wider respect; but while it can now more effectively educate public opinion on spelling reform questions, it currently offers no simple answer to the burning question "What, precisely, is to be done?"

A possible and promisingly practical answer was unintentionally suggested this summer by the head of the English School Curriculum and Assessment Authority. He expressed concern at British children being exposed to American spellings in educational software. The Society's Committee felt thereby provoked into sending him an analysis of the advantages of American spellings (to appear in the next issue of JSSS). Not merely are they nearly all orthographically and psychologically preferable, but their adoption in Britain would entail none of the complications of worldwide implementation of other first-step proposals. No international agreement would be needed; other countries would have every incentive (but no compulsion) to follow suit (Australia and Canada are perhaps halfway there already); there would be little uncertainty about which forms were involved; the British end of the SSS could concentrate on lobbying the British authorities, leaving members in other countries to lobby theirs independently; and a clear sign would be given, to make the world realize that improvements to English spelling are perfectly feasible. If the world agreed on American spellings, we could target real reforms from then on.

Features of this issue.

JSSS 96/1 marks the start of the new (second British) series in several ways. The cover has been updated so that the title matches our present housestyle, and the analysis of spelling anomalies is more explicit and comprehensive than before. This analysis follows British Received Pronunciation, and readers are encouraged to send in their observations on words listed that are at variance with their own pronunciation (eg, does geyser rhyme with freezer or wiser?).

This issue also celebrates a decade of SSS Newsletters and Journals with two special features. One is a full index (pp37-40) for the period 1985-1995. The other records nearly 90 years of publishing by the SSS with a joint bibliography and sales catalogue (pp35-36), which can be used in conjunction with the index. [1]

We further offer the usual wide variety of articles and other contributions, including Roger Mitton's illuminating account of how spellcheckers work, two contrasting papers on research into psychological and educational aspects of English spelling, two on the spelling of other languages (Italian and Galician), and some speculations on the marketability of spelling reform.

Planned for the next issue.

The special features in this issue unfortunately crowded out what we hope will become a regular item: readers' letters. Readers are therefore encouraged to write in (by email, fax, or snailmail) with their reactions to articles or their views on spelling reform questions generally.

Among the contributions expected for the next issue is a report on the much-heralded and now at last confirmed reform of German spelling, which many readers have been wanting to find out more about. This event offers a lesson to the English-speaking world on the normality and feasibility of spelling reform, and it should form a major plank in our propaganda. A propos of which: a recent German government press release was entitled: "A solid education - the primary school system". How many governments of English-speaking countries could claim as much?

[1] These lists have been superseded by later ones:
Summary, Contents, Authors, Topics,
Newsletters: Summary, Contents, Contributors, Topics,
Bibliografy by theme.

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