Back to part 1, part 2.

NEWS SHEET 4 Part 3.


Dear George,

You are a fantastic worker. It is amazing that you have been able to accomplish so much in so little time. You put us all to shame and deserve every support we can give you.

Everything you mention in your letter has my (grateful) approval. Go ahead with everything.

What a splendid idea to ask Prince Philip to be our Patron. You can be sure I will do whatever the Society decides I should do about this.

I will try to find ways of getting publicity for the Conference.

Just now I am in the hectic phase of packing up for a sabbatical year. I leave here on 4th May and will be away from Victoria for more than one year. In May I shall be lecturing at various places in Canada and the U.S.A., including the annual convention of I.R.A. at New York City. I shall arrive in England on 1st June. My address there will be Berkshire. It will be my H.Q. for about 5 months. But I will not be there continuously because I have to make trips to many other countries from my centre at Reading.

In the next few days I will try to send off some communications designed to produce publicity for the S.S.S. Conference.

With warmest regards.
Yours sincerely,
John Downing,

(Please help our President, to help us to get better publicity for our conference. Ed.)


We need all the publicity we can get for our First International Conference and Summer School in the last week of August this year. Publicity for the Conference is, of course, also publicity for the Society. Almost every Member of the Society could do a great deal to help. Letters to the press, local as well as national, attract a good deal of attention and often produce excellent results. I know this well from often repeated experience. When I was General Secretary of the i.t.a. Foundation we made a great deal of use of writing to the press on topics where we could find some connection with i.t.a. or a connected subject. Recent editions of the Times Educational Supplement, Teachers' World, etc. show that supporters of i.t.a. are again rallying round with supportive letters to the press. Much of the spread of i.t.a. was due to skilful use of the correspondence columns of the press. In general the press feels kindly to education and will usually give, at least, space to any reform which promises to help the quality of education.

To show what I mean a recent letter (below) by our Chairman was published in the Guardian.

"Sir, - Few would quarrel with Dr Eileen Byrne's view that universal literacy should be given the highest priority. But in a time when resources are scarce there is an alternative to redeploying money spent on lower priorities. Let us instead strip English spelling of the inconsistencies that insult the child's sense of reason.

If English were spelt as simply as modern Dutch, reading and writing could be taught effortlessly and successfully.

Yours faithfully, Edward Smith, Chairman.
Simplified Spelling Society.

The result of this publication was five enquiries for membership of the Society!

I do not have the resources which the i.t.a. Foundation has for this kind of useful publicity but if only a few members of the Society were to take a more active part in propaganda we should do very well without such resources. A letter, or other item, published in any journal or newspaper must bring some benefit. Local newspapers, trade journals, society journals, church news letters etc. are easier to get published in than national newspapers and often, because of their intimacy, produce a very good effect. May I call on YOU to try a letter to your local paper to get some publicity for our Conference? It doesn't matter where you are - it could always stimulate interest.

If you don't want to try your strength on the press there are always other things you can do to help with publicity. You could, for example, send out some of our leaflets specially produced on the Society's stationery to four or five chosen targets. You might for example send one to your local school and ask the Head if it could be put on the staff notice board. You might send one to the Secretary of the Students Union at your local technical school, college of technology, college of education, university college, etc. We will be happy to send you some leaflets if you write and ask for some. A few minutes of your time could help greatly to make the Conference a success.

[See journal topics re conferences and leaflet about 1987 conference.]


We are still on the look-out for good papers for presentation at our FIRST CONFERENCE. Papers should, in general, be capable of being read in 30 minutes or less, but we would be happy to allocate extra time to very interesting or important work. The following are some ideas which could inspire important papers. Could you speak on any of them - or on any other?

A.The Development of Written Communication
How the following work


Egyptian hieroglyphs, Chinese, Modern ideographs
(traffic signs, Blissymbolics, etc.)
Japanese, Vai, Mandinka, others.
 (c)ALPHABETS: (i)

Modern; in British Isles (Irish, Welsh, Scottish Gaelic)
Ancient; in British Isles, (Runes, Ogham, Anglo-Saxon,
Old & Middle English)
Omitting Vowels (Arabic, Hebrew, Speedwriting, Shorthand)
History and Development of the letters of our alphabet
History of English Spelling
Defects in English spelling - Where we went wrong, how and why
Consequences of these defects in human and economic terms
Reformed systems (by their inventors, etc.)
Transitional systems (Colour Story, i.t.a. DMS etc.)
The Teaching of Reading - approaches and methods.
The Difficulties children have in beginning; at later stages; in spelling
Reading failure; reading difficulties clinic;
Individualised materials; Preparation of materials;
techniques in illustration and lettering, painting, lino-cuts, etc.
(Expert instruction: will be available).
Reformed and new orthographies; causes and effects of reform
(Dutch, German, Irish etc.)
Experiments in Simplified Spelling and results
Interpretation of Latin and other inscriptions

We think the list above is exhaustive but, if there is any topic omitted upon which you are knowledgeable and on which you would wish to present a paper, we will be happy to consider it.

Anyone who wishes to present a 'paper should obtain a copy of 'NOTES ON PRESENTING A PAPER' from:
Conference Secretary, London.


I have just heard from Prof. Albert Mazurkiewicz that he will present a paper at the Conference. Mr A. Rondthaler, President of International Typeface Corporation, New York, also is preparing a paper on "Computerised Transliteration".

[See Journal articles by Donald Scragg.]


"A history of English spelling" by D.G. Scragg, Manchester University Press; boards, 9" x 5?", 130 pages, £2.20 net.

This book gives a concise account of how English spelling as we know it today has developed over the years since the Anglo-Saxons began to use the Roman alphabet. Dr. Scragg traces the effect of French and Latin conventions on our spelling and shows how the reforming proclivities of sixteenth century schoolmasters produced that appalling crop of heterographic homophones (pale/ pail; hear/here, etc.) which bedevil the early efforts of young children in our schools. The last chapter deals with changing fashions in spelling and should be read by all spelling reformers. In spite of its erudition this is a book which is easy to read. I could not put it down until I had finished it. I am told by Dr. Scragg that the book is intended as a temporary filling of an obvious gap until a more substantial account appears. I do not agree with him. I do not think a more substantial account could make the appeal that this book must make to the general reader, to teachers and students of English but I do hope that, when a more substantial account appears, it will be written by Dr. Scragg. Highly recommended. G.O'H.

[Underlining in the original has been replaced by italics.]


Simplified Spelling

Do you know?

That the short 'e' sound as in 'pet' is written in at least 16 different ways? e.g. pet, head, leisure, leopard, many, said, says, friend, bury, guest, debt, ledge, cheque, cleanse, phlegm, ate

That the long 'e' sound as in 'meet' is written in 20 different ways? e.g. meet, meat, key, quay, mosquito, vehicle, weir, anaemia, belief, debris, amoeba, geese, leaves, league, these, seize, people, marine, intrigue, siege.

The long 'a' sound is written in 21 different ways; the long 'o' in 16 ways; the long too' as in moon in 21 ways; and the list can be continued on and on.

If we write the letter 'a' it represents different sounds in the words:- at, all, ask, age, about, many, was, area and cottage.

We teach young children that an 'e' on the end of a word makes a vowel say its own name, but what about: - have, give, live, gone, done, come?

It is all a great illogical muddle, and results in a great deal of money being spent to teach reading. More important, our spelling does immeasurable harm to an enormous number of children. It is a scandal that so little is done to press for its reform.

How could spelling be reformed?

It can be done without adding any extra letters at all, e.g. the long a, e, i, o and u sounds could always be written ae, ee, ie, oe and ue. For the purpose of teaching reading these could temporarily be linked by a tie, e.g. maed, hie, foen, shie.

On the other hand, we could add just one new character for the unstressed vowel, (which gives many people spelling problems). For this the international phonetic character of 'ə' could be used, and words spelt:- brekfəst, Jurmən, partikuelər.

Has any other country ever reformed its spelling?

Yes, Russia has, and Holland, Norway, Turkey and Czecho-Slovakia. Spelling has also been simplified in Sweden and Finland. Reading failure as we know it doesn't exist in these countries.

What makes us hesitate with Enqlish Spelling Reform?

We suggest that the main reasons are:-

1. Apathy - together with the attitude, "I've had to master it, why shouldn't they?" Also, to be a good speller is a status symbol. We should lose that'

2. We don't like the look of it. Admittedly. But this wears off. Succeeding generations won't dislike the appearance.

3. Etymological grounds. When these are examined they cannot be very strong, e.g.

1) The old Anglo-Saxon words were written down after the Norman conquest by French-speaking scribes!

2) Chaucer, Shakespeare and Milton all spelt phonetically; but 16th and 17th century scholars (the Latinisers) changed the spelling of many words to make words, as they thought, reveal their classical origin, but they made many mistakes.

The old spelling would still be there for any who wished to study it.

For the Foreign Student

English is a difficult language to learn. We could make it one of the easiest. And with that there is the likelihood of it becoming an International Language.

We must not remain so apathetic to the need for reform. The bright child will read quicker and so absorb more. And for the average and below benefits will be enormous educationally and for many psychologically too. Educated costs will be reduced considerably after the first cost of change is over. Our spelling must be reformed. If you would like to know more, the following books may be purchased through The Simplified Spelling Society - - -

Ripman W & Archer 'New Spelling' 1948 Pitman Press.
Reed W.J. 'Spelling Reform and Our Schools' 1959 SSS.

Back to the top.
Forward to part 4.