SS16. On other pages: part 1, part 2, part 4 (Supplement).

simpl speling November 2001 part 3.

[Jean Wilkinson: see Newsletters .]

Jean Wilkinson USA writes

Voices from Oregon.

I bear good news.

For fun, I did a neibor survey, asking what spelling of people they would feel most comfortable changing to.

I met a grandma who had been Oregon state champion speller when she was in third grade, and in the next apartment house, but unknown to each other, was a Washington state-wide spelling winner of fourth place when she was a sixth-grader.

Only two persons out of 29 neibors held fast to the TS spelling. The group was middle class or almost, teens thru senior citizens.

They were given five options to choose from (votes on right):

A. peepl

B. peple
C. pepl
D. peepal
E. peeple
(from Tony Burns' Intermediate Orthography;
Edward Rondthaler's Soundspel)
(from Valerie Yule's Surplus-Cut)
(from Interspel)
(from Zé do Rock's Zinglish)
(from Masha Bell)

'No change from TS is acceptable' 2


E contains the smallest change from TS; its voters might have been more visually oriented.

D's voters may have been more kinesthetic or auditory; two of these, interviewed separately, sounded it out slowly, pronouncing a gap (schwa) between the mouth positions of the p and the l.

C, as its author already knew, was apparently too big an initial leap, requiring a change in the current short/long-vowel rule. Yet, two voters preferred the leap!

Again, A has a more familiar look than B. Many US adults were taut 'look-say' reading rather than fonics.

It appears that on our street minimal, inconspicuous changes may actually be acceptable.

The best news is that only two neibors refused to consider alternate spelling. Yippee!

My purpose: to give citizens a voice regarding change. They will have participated.

[Chris Jolly: see Journals and Newsletters, Media, Bulletins.]

A word from the Chair.

What is the role of the Society?

Chris Jolly, England.

What kind of a society should we be? Do we promote spelling reform in general, or should we promote a specific scheme? These issues have been discussed in the past, of course. Several of us did so again at the end of the July committee meeting. Jean Hutchins asked if I would put down my thoughts on this issue. Others may wish to add their contributions, too.

As a society, it seems to me essential that we meet the needs and wishes of the members as best we can. A high proportion of the members have their own ideas about how spelling should be reformed. Indeed, someone once remarked that every member has their own scheme. It is not quite so, but we all do have some firm views, and all the better for it.

Since the ideas for spelling reform differ, they do, inevitably, have features that are incompatible. As a society we like to discuss the merits of different ideas, and select those that are more effective. We are constantly striving for the best way to reform spelling. It follows that for some of us the objective of the Society should be to develop the most effective reform of spelling, and with the strength of a unified approach, go out and promote it.

Such a view is compelling but has shortcomings. Firstly, I have never found agreement on the best way to reform spelling. That is one of the reasons why discussions on spelling reform can be so interesting. And secondly, reform of spelling has never been dependent on the development of the perfect reform. Most people find reformed spellings very odd and recoil from them.

The alternative, therefore, is that we are 'pluralistic', that we accept and promote different ways of reforming spelling. In that sense, we do not seek to be the arbiter of which reforms are chosen or used. That decision is made elsewhere. Instead of expecting governments to come and ask us what reform should be made, we invite them to set up a commission to decide. This, after all, has been the recommendation of Allan Campbell to the New Zealand parliamentary select committee. The alternative is that the market place decides, as people make individual choices about using spelling reforms.

As a society there are various advantages for being pluralistic. The first is that it keeps us from falling out with each other! Over the years the Society has had times when members have had severe arguments. Disagreements are fine, but these have been much more, and undermined the Society itself. When I look at the background to these they have invariably come from irreconcilable differences on schemes for spelling reform. By implying that the choice of spelling reform is made outside the Society we remove the need for one scheme to vanquish another, at least internally.

Even more important perhaps, a pluralistic approach allows for everyone's ideas to be heard, and hence a reason for people with different views to be members. Who knows, there might even be a place for different spelling reforms. What works in teaching reading might not necessarily be the most appealing for writing personal notes. At least in the immediate future there might be a role for several reforms to start being used at once.

The pluralistic approach leaves open one question. How does a particular reform get promoted if the Society will not do it? The answer has to be that the developers and promoters have to do it themselves. In time they will need to set up their own organization to do so. The promotion of ITA was not undertaken by the SSS but by James Pitman himself. Similarly the RITE group has a life of its own, which has allowed it to constructively develop ideas, within the Society, without undermining the ideas of others.

I have heard of prospective new members of the Society feeling that they had to subscribe to a specific spelling reform. Similarly, I fear that many journalists writing about the Society feel that our ideas only come in one pre-conceived form, rather than the more interesting subject of what reform might be like, and what benefits might follow.

The end result, odd as it may seem, is that allowing many ideas to flourish might allow us to achieve reform more effectively than by just championing one scheme alone.

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

Spelling on the net with Steve Bett, USA.

Wade adds polling software.

Richard Wade [See Links] is taking the initiative to deploy automated online polling software to research spelling preferences. This is something that is long overdue. All new spelling proposals struggle to get more than a dozen people to look at them.

RITE has been getting 50 reviews but Wade's initiative can result in over 10,000 reviews. His site continues to receive over 1000 hits per day. When in the news he received over 10,000 hits per day.

The initial poll examines how people feel about 10 respellings. The number is being kept small to encourage voting. Readers will be shown the traditional spelling and the four most popular respellings along with the percentage of respondents favoring each. The poll will be automated so each new vote is immediately added to the tally. Only one vote per email address is allowed. Respondents will be invited to join a discussion group and give the reasons for their particular preferences.

Most of the critics of Wade's website assume that he is advocating total anarchy with respect to spelling. He is advocating a break with tradition and a redefinition of what counts as correct spelling. There may have to be a period of chaos before a new standard can be achieved. The new standard would be one closer to the way we speak today rather than the way we spoke in days of yore.

Progress on new SSS website.

While the SSS will continue to have a presence at Aston University [Not after 2003] all of the new pages will be posted on a new website. This expanded website with its own domain name is currently under development at (check it out!).

Fred Swartz has been busy copying and editing the old pages and adding new links. There are already over 20 spelling-related information pages at the new site.

Disagreement stops development.

Joe Orr, a programmer and entrepreneur from New York City who owns the language training and translation site, was interested in enhancing the Truespel converter at [See Links.]
and using the 60,000-word dictionary in some other projects. Orr, however, wanted the dictionary to be consistent with the pronunciation guide in at least one major dictionary.

Tom Zurinskas, inventor of the Truespel notation and developer of the dictionary, did not want any of the words in his dictionary changed. The dictionary was based on the American Heritage Talking Dictionary on CD and Tom's interpretation of the announcer's pronunciation.

The person on the CD pronounced won't as wuent (wu:nt in IPA), so Tom wrote it that way in his dictionary. Orr wanted to change this to woent (wount or w@unt in IPA) because that is the way every dictionary has it in their pronunciation guide.

Because of the resistance, Joe took another route to developing his language software. The orfaned converter can be found at

Orthografy and dyslexia.
'Is English a dyslexic language?' Do numerous irregularities in the pronunciation and spelling of English make some students dyslexic?

As preposterous as this sounds, several researchers confirmed that something like that does happen. Dr Esther Geva of Toronto argues 'many children are born with fonological processing deficits [meaning they don't hear and process sound very accurately]; however, if they are born into languages which are highly regular in sound/symbol association (as Italian), they practise the fonology of their languages so much in learning to read and write that the deficits are compensated for.' [See also Learning literacy slower in English]

[See related articles on dyslexia and spelling in Journals and Media.]

BBC on ITA 40th anniversary.

The page on the initial teaching alfabet includes a transcript of a BBC radio interview with SSS membership secretary John Gledhill on the 40th anniversary of the government-sponsored ITA experiment (September 1961).

The interviewer asked 'The Society ... doesn't seem to have made much progress, does it?' Read John's excellent response to this and other provocative questions.

[This intervew is now on SSS web].

More complete versions of these reports can be found at


A letter in The Times May 11 2001.
Dizzy spell


I received this morning a catalogue which included a spellchecker. The sales spiel reads:

No more embarrassing mistakes: just type in suspect words and you get an immediate correct answer.

Enter ELIFANT, it becomes ELEFANT.

Back to the top.
On other pages: part 1, part 2, part 4 (Supplement).