[Simplified Spelling Society Newsletter Summer 1986/2 p.25. Later designated Journal 3]
[Also on this page, A Sartorial-Orthographical Parable.]
[See Journal and Newsletter articles, Pamflet 15 and Cut Spelling by Chris Upward.]

The Cut Spelling (CS) Debate: points arising.

Chris Upward.

Tom McArthur's and Edward Rondthaler's queries about CS below (from p.4) reflect widespread uncertainty. This reply uses CS (omission of superfluous letters with no letter-changes) to remind readers of the forms that are at issue - and save space.


CS is not shorthand. Idealy, a riting systm shud be symetricl, being as easy for th readr to derive th sound of words from th ritn form as for th riter to derive th speling from th spoken form. Shorthand howevr is asymetricl, in that it sacrifices easy reading to easy riting. Thus alphabetic shorthands comnly exploit th fact that English ritn without vowl-letrs is stil usuly comprehensbl, and put may therfor conveniently be ritn pt. Nevrthles, th ambiguity of th systm (pt cud eqaly represent pat, pet, pit, pot etc.) hamprs th uninitiated readr, wethr child-lernr, non-nativ speakr, or just somone unfamilir with th context in a way that a phonographicly unambiguus systm dos not. Hebrew ofrs an object lesn in th dificlty.

CS on th othr hand only omits letrs superfluus for th phonemic representatn of words, releving t.o. of much clutr that makes both reading and riting mor dificlt than need be. Being 10-15% shortr, CS ofrs somthing of th advantage of shorthand for th riter, but without th disadvantage for th readr. If CS resembls shorthand at first siht, one shud not be deceved: th cut forms represent th ful phonemic structur of th words in qestn, tho th novl use of sylabographic consonnts may conceal the fact. Altho on th one hand CS proceeds by serendipity, cuting roge letrs wher it can, it is also hihly systmatic, gaining as much in regularity as in econmy.


By 'poor readrs', we mean childrn in th first stage of lerning, or making belo-avrage progres, adult ilitrats and semi-litrats, and non-nativ speakrs with limitd proficncy in th language; and we take acount of riting as wel as reading.

It is taken as axiomatic that al lernrs, childrn and adults, nativ and non-nativ speakrs, wil acheve litracy mor easly if words hav fewr letrs, and th letrs that words contain reflect ther pronunciatn mor acuratly than dos t.o. CS drasticly reduces th variatns of t.o., and in particulr regulrizes such unpredictbl, err-prone patrns as post-accentul shwa. Th reserch to prove that poor readrs wud benefit has yet to be don (tho see Valerie Yule), but one notes many presnt speling-errs coresponding to CS patrns.


CS is no perfect orthography, leaving many outrageus t.o. forms untuchd. Rathr, it is a tecniqe combining sevrl desiderata in a uniqely atractiv way: it is a simpl, rule-based procedur; it dos not risk making t.o. incomprehensbl to a generatn educated in th new speling, nor wud th oldr generatn need reeducating; by regulrizing many presnt variatns, it targets som very trublsm featurs of t.o.; by shortning, it makes al text-procesing qikr and cheapr; and by its flexbility it can respect th difrnces between accents. In othr words, it ofrs imediat benefits to al users.

Letters from page 4 which are referred to above.

From Tom McArthur, General Editor, English.
... In view of the fact that you are now up-dating your New Spelling of 1948, it might be a good idea for me to hang on until it is ready, and then consider it as a centrepiece for a presentation of the whole issue of reformed spelling... Cut Spelling seems to be the same as the journalistic speedhand I learned in my early twenties.

From Edward Rondthaler, Typographic Council for Spelling Reform.
... I have no trouble reading Cut Spelling... but it wouldn't do anything to help our illiteracy problem. Or am I wrong?

... I'm sending you an abstract of the forthcoming American Spelling dictionary. It will be published shortly and then I'll get a complete copy to you.

... We are moving right ahead with reform on this side of the Atlantic. IBM's Writing to Read, which is the first step towards reformed spelling, is presently being taught to 150,000 children... since it uses the regular 26 letters, it will be compatible with traditional spelling. The very slight differences between the orthography in Writing to Read and American are in process of being ironed out... So we think we're really making progress... thanks to IBM's support... If you are interested in IBM's Writing to Read, there is a book published by Warner Books (666 Fifth Avenue), Writing to Read by J H Martin... published in February.

[Simplified Spelling Society Newsletter Summer 1996/2. p.26. Later designated Journal 3]
[See Journal and Newsletter articles by Robert Craig.]

A Sartorial-Orthographical Parable.

Robert Craig.

Robert Craig is notable for his prolific invention of novel sound-symbol correspondences to cope with the inadequacies of the Roman alphabet. His interest in spelling reform dates from his early schooling, when he was first taught to read and write in the Society's New Spelling.

Bakk at dhe turn ov dhe century a group ov notablez whu were koncerned by unhealthy Viktorian klodhing got tugedber tu form dhe Sensible Klodhing Society.

Twu memberz ov dhe society were given dhe task ov designing a sensible form ov dress. Dheir solucion was dhe kilt for men and dhe jimslip for women made from plain material. Somehow noone, not even memberz ov dhe society, koud be perswaded tu wear dhem. A number ov aproachez were made tu dhe government tu implement healthier klodhing. Dhe Minister for Health looked at dhe kilt and said dhat it was not his job tu chanje dhe way people dressed and dismissed dhe whole idea.

In dhe 1960'z one ov dhe early memberz left money tu furdher dhe kause ov klodhing reform. His exekutorz offered a prize for a new klodhing. Dhe prize was won by a design for a toga made from new materialz. Everyone viewed it with amazement. An independent worker launched a radikally modified kilt for use by children, which had government bakking, but dhe public didn't buy it.

Recently, dhe society has reviewed dhe situacion. Dhey vowed to uze dhe 'big five' which konsisted ov wearing a sweater radher dhan shirt and tie, trouserz widhout tum-upz, no hat, no glovez and a belt instead ov bracez. Dhe efekt was minimal: noone noticed. Dhen it was felt dhat dhey shoud took again at dhe kilt. Perhapz if it was fitted widh pokketz and made tu look more like trouserz?

In dhe outside world dhe klodhing industry had proceeded much as before in komplete ignorance ov dhe Sensible Klodhing Society, and klodhez had evolved tu some extent.

Now ontu dhe cene kame a new fenomenon - punkz. Dhey wore exaktly dhe same klodhez as everyone else, but dhey kut gashez in dhem, dhey sewed on zipz, dhey dyed dheir hair outrajeos kolorz, dhey stukk it up in spikez.

An unlooked for konsekwence ov dhe punkz was dhat businessmen felt emboldened tu wear kasual klodhez tu dhe office and housewives turned out in trakk suitz. Som people bought shawtogaz and pitmansmokkz. Even memberz ov dhe society felt less embarassed in dheir kiltz and jimslipz.

Dhe lessonz ov dhis story are

1. Dhe punkz set out tu shokk, not tu influence dress, and even dho dheir klodhez wer not sensible, dhe efekt was tu alow odherz tu feel less radikal in sensible klodhing.

2. Dhe trend was tuwardz trakk suitz for both men and women, which was something which dhe SKS koud not hav envisaged when it was founded. Had dhe government interfered by imposing kiltz and jimslipz dhe trend tu trakksuitz koud not hav happened.

3. Dhe punkz did not employ anything unusual or expensiv tu obtain dheir efekt. All dhey needed were ordinary klodhez, cissorz, pinz and zip fastenerz.

4. Perhapz dhe trakk suit will pruve tu be a more suitable form ov dress dhan dhe kilt and jimslip, which have so long been society policy.

Dhe moral is not, ourselvz, tu introduce better spellingz or try tu make thingz better for children in dhe first instance. Dhe job ov dhe society is tu break dhe mould. I sujest dhat dhis kan be done by being shokking widhout altering dhe underlying spellingz. Uze <k> where t.o. uzez <c> and dhis bringz people up widh a start. Write kat, and whu kan say dhat cat is better? People in a better position dhan we are kan bring about dhe chanjez - printerz, edukacionalistz, linguistz, and young people whu want tu parade dheir modernity.

Dhe lesson from dhe punkz is tu take what is at hand and tu du what is simple yet dramatic. Substitute <f> for <ph>, <k> for <c>, <j> for soft <g>: dhat's simple and dramatic. Odher chanjez such as SR1, DUE-, respelling <ough> and <augh> ar not simple, as has been illustrated by our atemptz to uze dhem in our house style. We kan be as radikal as we like in chanjing dhe apearance ov dhe paje so long as we leave dhe underlying strukture intakt. I might kall dhis dhe principle ov maximum disturbance, bekause it disturbz dhe visual apearance but leavez dhe underlying strukture undisturbed, in kontrast tu dhe principle ov minimum disturbance which seekz tu leave dhe apearance ov dhe paje undisturbed but disturbz dhe underlying strukture.

In order tu break dhe mould dhe house style must apear radikal but be konservativ. It must be simple. <f> for <ph>, <dh> for voiced <th>, <k> for <c>, <j> for soft <g>: what koud be simpler or more shokking?

Spelling is subjekt tu fashion, so our house style must be a fashionable trend setter widh a rekognizable imaje.

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