Arguments against Spelling Reform

In Arguments against Spelling Reform On June 21, 2016 ()

From Stephen Linstead (Chair)

Arguments against Spelling Reform

The Society has been arguing for spelling reform ever since it was set up in 1908. In the intervening years many arguments for and against reform have been raised. The arguments below are the most common ones as to why reform is impracticable or undesirable.  Comments are invited.

1. Traditional English spelling is not all that irregular. It has underlying rules that can be memorised and applied, requiring not too many exceptions to be memorised.

2. Mastering English spelling may be difficult at first but we all learn to spell eventually. All it needs is hard work. There is no evidence that traditional spelling has any tangible disadvantages.

3. Spelling reform would be dumbing down. A spelling based on how words are actually pronounced would be pandering to those who can’t be bothered to learn or who are too unintelligent to learn how to spell properly. The irregularity of English spelling is part of its traditional charm and richness.

4. Reform is unnecessary. New teaching methods can cater for any problems caused by irregular English spelling. And spell checkers can be used to prevent mistakes.

5. Spelling reform would cut generations off from each other. Those learning a new system would not be able to read books published in the old system – and vice versa

6. Spelling reform would require all books to be re-printed at enormous cost.

7. Spelling reform would destroy traces of etymology. If we were to adopt a new system, ordinary people would no longer know the origin of words and this would be a great loss.

8. Spelling reform would only work for one accent of spoken English. It would mean either everyone speaking with that accent or having to have several different spelling systems for British, American, Australian etc.

9. Spelling reform would destroy useful heterographs. One would no longer be able to distinguish the meaning of words such as none and nun, night and knight, right and rite etc.

10 Previous attempts at reform have failed. Why should there be any change this time? The Society has been in existence for over 100 years – what has it achieved in that period?

11. If it’s not broke, don’t change it. Spelling reform is for those who want to change things for the sake of it.  


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