1. To raise awareness of the problems caused by the irregularity of English spelling

2. To promote remedies to improve literacy, including spelling reform


A. To publicize the unnecessary difficulties of English spelling and the benefits that its simplification would bring.

B. To raise awareness of the alphabetic principle, its corruption during the long history of written English, and its more rational application in other languages.

C. To promote research and debate on ways of reforming English spelling, and to prepare a graded set of proposals for relating word-forms more predictably to speech-sounds.

D. To help co-ordinate proposals for English spelling reform across both English-speaking and non-English-speaking countries.

E. To persuade the public, opinion-formers, policy-makers and relevant agencies of the need for and practical possibilities of reforming English spelling.


1. The letters of the alphabet were designed to represent speech sounds; that is the alphabetic principle

2. The alphabetic principle makes literacy easy, allowing the reader to pronounce words from their spelling, and the writer to spell them from their sounds

3. As pronunciation changes through the ages, the alphabetic principle tends to be corrupted; the spelling of words then needs to be adapted to show the new sounds

4. Unlike other languages, English has not systematically modernized its spelling over the past 1,000 years, and today it only haphazardly observes the alphabetic principle

5. Neglect of the alphabetic principle now makes literacy unnecessarily difficult in English throughout the world, and learning, education and communication all suffer

6. Procedures are needed to manage improvements to English spelling as a world communication system


Page editor: N Paterson. 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.