SS15. 8pp. On other pages: part 2, part 3, part 4 (Supplement).
[Allan Campbell: see Journals, Newsletters, Media, Spell 4 Literacy NZ.]

Founded 1908
Working for planned change in English spelling for the benefit of learners and users everywhere.

simpl speling June 2001 part 1.

Editor: Alan Campbell.

Email members.

New members elected to the committee at April's AGM included two email-only members, Zé do Rock (Munich) and Elizabeth Kuizenga (San Francisco). How this new arrangement will operate is likely to be watched with interest.

Strategy group to study cost savings.

Following a presentation by Jack Bovill to the January committee meeting, and a request in the March issue of Simpl Speling, five members - Allan Campbell, Jerry Dicker, Ian Hunter, Chrissie Parker, Valerie Yule - have joined Jack in a strategy group to look at which cost savings would motivate or trigger a change in people to move from traditional spelling to a reformed spelling. Three email groups were sought - the other two being communicating and benefits - but only sufficient members volunteered for one. Jack will co-ordinate it, and report to the committee.

[Chris Jolly: see Journals and Newsletters, Media, Bulletins.]
[Chris Upward: see Journals, Newsletters, Leaflets, Media, Pamflet, Book, Papers.]

Chris Jolly pays tribute to key member: Chris Upward.

At the Society's annual general meeting in April the chair, Chris Jolly, paid this tribute (edited) to Chris Upward:

Chris Upward has had to resign his position on the Simplified Spelling Society committee thru ill-helth, and it seems right that we should pay tribute to what he has achieved to date. As an MS sufferer he has long had difficulty in getting about, the increased difficulties must be very frustrating for him.

Chris joined the Society in 1983 and brought considerable experience with him from his position as lecturer in modern languages (especially German) at Aston University, and, as we were to discover, a profound understanding of English spelling.

Chris became editor of the newsletter from late 1985, transforming it from a fotocopied members' newsletter to an authoritative journal on spelling reform. He has published this for just over 15 years, typically with two issues a year. It has been a huge task, performed with great scholarship, drawing in articles from around the world, and including spelling issues in languages other than English.

He has also developed Cut Spelling, a well reasoned scheme based on cutting out redundant letters. This was drawn from an idea by Valerie Yule. At the time of its development Chris involved Laurie Fennelly and myself in a working party and I remember the detailed discussion we used to have. The Society published the Cut Spelling Handbook, which was launched at a press conference in London. The publicity and interest surrounding it was substantial and it has become, in my view, the most well known scheme since ita. Alongside his work on this scheme Chris has also been generous in encouraging others developing spelling reform schemes.

A major part of Chris's work with the Society has been his PR work. He has spoken on radio, both here and by telefone overseas. He has written articles, notably for the Times Educational Supplement and for English Today. He has cultivated contacts with scholars and editors worldwide, and we hope he is able to continue developing these links.

Overall, I feel Chris has been the key person in raising the profile of spelling reform to a serious issue. His publications have helped us identify more clearly the benefits of spelling reform in improved literacy levels, including some measures of this benefit. We look forward to his continuing involvement in the Society as far as he is able to.

This 'n' that from here 'n' there.

[Web addresses have not been linked as they are unlikely to be valid now. Search engines may find the people or topics.]
[Jean Hutchins: see Journals, Newsletters.]

Confusion reigns over silent letters.

Jean Hutchins, England.

In the BBC 1 program Room 101 host Paul Merton asks guests what they would like to send to Room 101 (a reference to the novel 1984). In a repeated program in January, his guest was Sanjeev Bhaskar, an Indian actor in the sit-com Goodness Gracious Me!

Bhaskar's second choice was silent letters in words! He said that no one could pronounce the words, or remember how to spell them, eg, autum(n), crum(b). He read a short poem fonetically (but inaccurately). They quoted some freak names like Althorp and Featherstone Haugh.

People in the audience had cards with letters for words, eg, diaphragm. The card-holders were asked to sit down if they thought their letters were unnecessary.

Confusion reigned. The most interesting word was queue, for which all sat down except the holder of the first letter.

Scty askd 4 vw on txt msgng.

Ian Hamilton, a student at Sussex University, England, has asked the Society if it has a view on the impact that spelling commonly adopted for mobile-fone text messaging (eg, l8r for later, b4 for before) could have on written English in other areas. He is researching this for his dissertation.

Short message service (SMS) on cellfones limits the total number of characters per message to 160, and so drastic abbreviations are common.

Are such abbreviated forms a step towards a more simplified system, or are they just going to lead to extra complications, and further decline in spelling standards? Mr Hamilton asked.

He also asked if the Society was aware of any other studies that were being done into this area of spelling.

Secretary Masha Bell replied that the Society had not discussed text messaging, tho it had been suggested as something it should look at. It was not aware of any other study.

But it would be interested in his findings.

Fonetics better in dyslexia study.

A study published in Science (March 16) showed that while the neurological cause of dyslexia is the same across the three nations' languages, the disorder appears to be twice as common in England and France as in Italy because English and French have more complex writing systems than Italian, which is more fonetic.

French, English and Italian adult dyslexics did equally poorly in tests that involved short-term memory, but Italian dyslexics did much better in reading tests.

The head of the researchers, Professor Eraldo Paulesu, of the University of Milan Bicocca and the Institute San Raffale, commented that English dyslexics would find reading easier if the English writing system was more regular.

Dyslexia: Interaction of Genes with Culture

Tuff on the NY Times.

Under the headline All the mstakes that are fit to prnt the Toronto Globe and Mail reports that New Yorker Ira Stoll each day spends an hour and a half looking for errors in The New York Times. He then logs on to his web site. and posts his findings, which can include anything from simple spelling mistakes to perceived bias in news stories. When pressed, Stoll has trouble narrowing down his favorite mistakes, but spelling errors bother him. (Misspellings are at

In February he asked: W hat is it w ith The New York Times that it can't spell names correctly? The Week in Review section today, in an item on donations to Planned Parenthood, refers to "a White House spokesman, Scott McClennan." It's a pretty good bet the spokesman in question was Scott McClellan, who spells his name like that.'

The Times runs a daily corrections section.

The fight for literacy: S African reading campaign.

The South African Minister of Education, Kader Asmal, has called for 2001 to be a 'focus year on reading' with a 'Masifunde Sonke' (Building a nation of readers) reading promotion campaign.

It aims to engage the whole nation in an effort to 'build a culture of reading and writing that affirms the nation's languages, history, values, and development'.

At present at least three million South African adults are completely illiterate. There are an estimated five to eight million who are functionally illiterate (unable to function adequately in the modem world because of underdeveloped reading and writing skills). Also, there are millions of South Africans who are aliterate (can read, but don't).

[Tom Lang: see Newsletters .]

Reform stalwart dies.

Tom Lang, England, a Society member from Barnsley, South Yorkshire, died in February. Tho a member of the Society since only February 1998, he had been interested in spelling reform for more than 50 years. He was a member of the Fonetic Alfabet Association, which focused mainly on the Shaw alfabet. In the 1960s he corresponded with Dr Godfrey Dewey, then secretary of the Simpler Spelling Association of New York.

He commented in 1999 that he felt any spelling system requiring extensive changes in spelling stood no chance of gaining general acceptance, and was pleased to see micro-reform coming on to the agenda of the Society.

An unteachable teacher.

Tom Shanks, New Zealand.

As I see it, the English world divides into excellent spellers, averagely good and rottenly hopeless spellers. The former boost their egos by putting down the latter and constructing the rules of society so they hold the power thru the written word. The struggling speller is cast aside to the manual world.

All my school reports and 28% for matriculation English pointed my future one way, but I found myself at teachers' training college. The English lecturers were appalled, then horrified when a spelling test recorded a spelling age of 10.5 years. Somehow I avoided expulsion.

Then began 42 years of covering up from being found out by the authorities and parents. My masterstroke was to marry the best speller I have ever found. From then on she checked all my drafts of long-term teaching plans, and all my written words in public life. That included being secretary of organizations, letters to editors, and business letters.

But day-to-day in the classroom I had to manage on my own. At hand were the usual dictionaries, spelling and grammar dictionaries, telefone directories (names), Yellow Pages (firms), and on the walls local and international maps. As I could use a pupil's name for months and then go blank when about to write it on the blackboard, I displayed them on a calendar frieze and with one glance could save humiliation.

When really stuck it was off to the next-door teacher, with a piece of paper in case I forgot the spelling while returning. Even when five-year-olds wanted a word they would bring their spelling dictionary and we would search together. With senior pupils at writing time I would appoint a spelling monitor for the day, explaining it gave me more time to help others with conferencing.

As I was alone as a principal in three one-teacher schools, I sometimes had to send out an urgent notice to parents. So a runner would be dispatched to the schoolhouse with the draft notice for editing. Because I was open to criticism I read widely on teaching spelling (but never found an answer for myself) and spent long hours thumbing thru dictionaries as I corrected children's work.

My struggles may have helped when I spent time as a specialist remedial reading teacher, because it gave me a better understanding of the struggle the pupils had in decoding written English.

Then I retired and discovered the Simplified Spelling Society and all the knowledgeable people trying to change things to help us who are handicapped. How different life would be without silent letters, double letters, and some of those unvoiced vowels. And now I am retired I am able to talk about my problem without fear of retribution. But, hey, it's not me that is dumb, it's the English spelling.

(Tom helped present the Society's submission to the NZ parliamentary select committee. - Ed.)

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On other pages: part 2, part 3, part 4 (Supplement).