These are International English Spelling Congress (IESC) Detailed Plans.
  • Updated 2021-03-14.
  • Comments on these plans may be made through the Society Blog.

The essential elements of the IESC are:

The first session

This was held on 30 May 2018 and was recorded and is available on YouTube. It was held primarily as a webinar and brought together participants from all over the world.

Between the sessions

Following the first session the following steps were taken:

  • The Guidance Notes for those wishing to submit proposals for alternative spelling systems were revised. 
  • An Expert Commission was appointed to select about six alternative schemes from those submitted.
  • Participants were invited (by 31 May 2019) to submit proposals for alternative spelling schemes using a prescribed template.
  • Spelling proposals were sifted by independent monitors to check that they were complete and conformed to the official procedure. Thirty five schemes passed this process and were forwarded to the commissioners.
  • A shortlist of six schemes, ranging from the radical to the conservative, were selected by the commissioners from the 35 submitted.
  • The shortlisted schemes were published on the Society’s website (full text and summaries).
  • Comments were invited from participants in the Congress and the general public on the shortlisted schemes – via the Society Blog.

The second session

The second session was held in three Zoom meetings on 28th November 2020, 28th January 2021 with a supplementary meeting on 4th February 2021. Together with extensive consultation via the Society's blog pages and other media, these meetings provided the opportunity for an extended debate on the merits of the various proposals shortlisted. 

The vote

An independently monitored vote is currently being held among IESC participants on the final choice of alternative system. As the choice will be for one of six proposals, the Alternative Vote procedure is being be adopted. 

The Alternative Vote (or Instant Run-Off) is used to select a single winner from a list of candidates. In our case, candidates are the six shortlisted spelling schemes. The ballot will list these schemes and voters can rank their preferences.


The IESC will essentially have done its work when participants have made their final choice on the preferred alternative spelling scheme. However, the Committee of the Society will be consulting widely on the follow up action that should be taken in the light of the vote.


Page editor: S Linstead. Contact by email or form.
Did You Know:

• Ask your friend what Y-E-S spells. They won't have any difficulty saying yes. Then ask what E-Y-E-S spells. It's easy when it's written down, but surprisingly difficult when it's spoken. See a YouTube video of this.

• Who has not heard i before e, except after c. A University of Warwick statistician put it to the test. He plugged a list of 350,000 English words into a statistical program to see if the math checked out. It didn't.

• When Adam met Eve for the first time, he said Madam, I'm Adam. This is a palindrome — a phrase or sentence in which the letters, words or even lines read the same in either direction. Adam hoped to impress the most beautiful woman in the world, but she more than matched him by replying simply, Eve. Not bad given that writing, and therefore palindromes, and English ones in particular, had not yet been invented! More palindromes, and a wonderful palindromic poem.

• How would you pronounce ghoti? Pronounce it like this:

and you get ... fish! Thanks to Charles Ollier for writing this in 1855 — and for showing that English spelling has been ludicrous for quite some time.

• One of the arguments in favour of keeping English spelling unchanged is to show the etymology of words. For example, the silent s in island shows the link to the Latin insula. But island actually derives from the Old English íglund, not from the Latin at all. More examples at Mental Floss.


Page editor: N Paterson. Contact by email or form.

​Spelling reform is not a new idea!

Benjamin Franklin "The same is to be observed in all the letters, vowels, and consonants, that wherever they are met with, or in whatever company, their sound is always the same. It is also intended that there be no superfluous letters used in spelling, i.e. no letter that is not sounded [...]"  Franklin proposed a spelling scheme with 6 new letters. (Franklin 1806 p359)

Theodore Roosevelt "It is merely an attempt [...] to make our spelling a little less foolish and fantastic." Theodore Roosevelt promoted the Simplified Spelling Board's gradual reform (see Twain below). (Roosevelt 1906, p3)

Mark Twain "It is my belief that an effort at a slow and gradual change is not worth while. [...] It is the sudden changes [...] that have the best chance of winning in our day. Can we expect a sudden change in our spelling? I think not. But I wish I could see it tried. [...] By a sudden and comprehensive rush the present spelling could be entirely changed and the substitute spelling be accepted, all in the space of a couple of years; and preferred in another couple. But it won't happen, and I am as sorry as a dog." (Twain 1997, pp208-212)

Page editor: N Paterson. Contact by email or form.