International English Spelling Congress

This is the home page of the The International English Spelling Congress — a competition to find an acceptable alternative to current English spelling.

Why are we holding the Congress?

English as a language is relatively simple to learn in its basic form. But its spelling system is possibly the most irregular of those based on the alphabetic principle. Not merely is it hard to predict the spelling from the pronunciation, but it is not always possible to predict the pronunciation from the spelling. This peculiarity has economic and social costs. It takes English speaking primary school children upwards of two years longer to master basic spelling than speakers of other languages, resulting in undue stress on students and teachers from the beginning; many children carry over to secondary education spelling problems acquired earlier; and English speaking dyslexics suffer disproportionately. Functional illiteracy remains a matter of major concern in English speaking countries. Despite countless government initiatives over many years, no teaching method has been found which addresses satisfactorily the problems arising from the high irregularity of our spelling.

The Congress provides a competition open to all English speakers with the purpose of finding an acceptable alternative to current English spelling that will improve access to literacy while avoiding unnecessary change.

The Congress – first session

The first session of the Congress took place on 30 May 2018. There were two physical meetings, in Central London and Berkeley, California. Others participated via the internet. The event comprised talks on various aspects of spelling reform, plus an Open Session. The whole event has been recorded and can be accessed from the following link:

What happens now?

The Guidelines for authors of new schemes have been finalised, taking into account comments received. Authors are invited (with a deadline of 31 May 2019) to submit their schemes for appraisal, using the form provided. An Expert Commission will choose a shortlist of about six. After a period for comment and reflection, there will then be second session of the Congress and participants will make a final choice on an alternative scheme. This alternative will be promoted to run alongside traditional English spelling in the hope that it will eventually gain sufficient acceptance to become the new worldwide standard.

Expert Commission

The following have agreed to serve on the Expert Commission

  • Robbins Burling
  • John Gledhill
  • Chris Jolly
  • Alicia Mariscal
  • Margaret Nydell

More information on members of the Commission is available below.


  • See the Detailed Plans for more detail on how the Congress will proceed.
  • Complete the Application Form to take part in the remaining stages of the Congress. Applicants from across the whole world are welcome.
  • Read the Guidance if you are thinking of proposing a spelling scheme for the Commission to consider. Then download the form and accompanying notes. You must have registered as a participant in the Congress in order to submit a scheme.
  • See all Society Press Releases. (The latest one is linked below.)
  • If you would like to discuss any aspect of the IESC, feel free to post on the Society Blog.

More links below.


Page editor: S Linstead. Contact by email or form.
IESC Press Release 2018-01-30

English spelling is broken: plans to find a new spelling system announced today.

IESC Detailed Plans

How the Congress will proceed.

IESC Guidance Notes

Read these notes if you are thinking of proposing a spelling scheme for Congress to consider.

IESC Application Form

Applicants from the whole world are welcome.

IESC Proposed Spelling Scheme

To propose your spelling scheme, download the form, read the notes, fill in the form and send it in by email.

IESC Expert Commission Biographies

Brief biographies of the members of the Expert Commission.