We are now progressing to the next stage of the IESC, namely the vetting of new spelling schemes submitted and the drawing up of a short list.

The deadline for submission of schemes was 31 May 2019. At that date we had received a total of about 33 schemes, ranging from the very conservative to the extremely radical. Most proposals received are currently with the independent sifters who are checking them for compliance with the requirements of the application form. Those that are found to be fully compliant will be sent to the Commission without further process. Where a scheme is not found to be fully compliant, the author is being contacted with suggestions as to what needs to be done to make it address this.

We are aiming to complete the sifting and amendment process by the end of July of this year and for all of the schemes deemed compliant to have been sent to the Commission by that date or shortly thereafter. It will then for the Commission to produce its shortlist of 5 or 6 schemes. When the Commission has agreed on the shortlist, the schemes selected will be publicised via the Society’s website and other means. The authors will be given an opportunity to explain and defend their proposals. Participants in the IESC and the general public will be free to debate the various proposals via the blog pages of our website.

Meanwhile, we shall be publicising the IESC and seeking to persuade more people to sign up as participants or observers.

Once authors have had an opportunity to explain and defend their proposals, we shall arrange a second session of the IESC, which will be largely by webinar. This will give authors a further opportunity to set out their proposals and for participants to question them.

After the second session, all participants will be contacted and given instructions as to how they can cast their votes. The decision will be taken by the Alternative Vote (ie a preferential system). The winner of the competition will be announced thereafter.

Contemporaneously with the vetting and shortlisting process, the Committee of the Society is considering what steps can be taken to promote the successful scheme after the final vote. Some preliminary discussion of this issue took place at the Society’s AGM. We welcome suggestions from all interested in this important subject; they can be sent to spellconf@gmail.com.

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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.