The Congress

Where will the physical meetings be held?

Precise venue to be decided. One will be in the UK and the other in the USA.

What will the proceedings be like?

The agenda will probably include: welcome, introduction, guest speakers, discussion of a conference paper, floor participation, election of a Commission of experts plus approval of a conference document.

When will the Congress take place?

When we have raised sufficient funds.

What will the cost of the Congress be?

About £90,000 on present estimates plus some contingency.

Why do you need that amount?

This is not just money for a one-day conference. It’s for two conferences a year apart. It’s also a for an international competition and for the costs of an expert Commission. There will need to be some market research to assist the Commission in its choices. And finally some funds will be necessary to promote the alternative system adopted.

I may be able to contribute financially to the cost of the Congress. How do I go about this?

Please contact the Chair :


When can I apply to be a delegate?

When we announce that funds have been committed. You can express an initial interest by emailing:

What are the qualifications?

The applicant must:

  • be an individual (not an organisation);
  • over the age of 18;
  • speak English as a maternal language or else be fluent in reading, writing and speaking it;
  • be broadly sympathetic to spelling reform;
  • agree to abide by the Rules of the Congress.

Do I have to prove that my maternal language is English?

We trust delegates to act in good faith. But we will reject those who intentionally mislead us in their application.

My maternal language is not English. How good does my English have to be?

We may ask you some questions about your level of fluency in reading, writing and speaking English.

How enthusiastic about reform do I have to be?

We ask that you broadly support and see the need for updating English spelling and are prepared to accept some changes. You don’t have to support any particular alternative. But those who are totally opposed to any change should not apply to be delegates.

What are the rules you refer to?

They will be designed to make sure that the whole project runs smoothly and transparently and that there are no disputes. They will be set out on the application form for delegates.

I don’t qualify under your criteria. Can I be an observer?

Yes, a number of places will be reserved for observers without voting rights.

Do I have to be a member of the English Spelling Society?


Do I have to pay?

No. But delegates will have to bear their own travel expenses if they wish to attend one of the physical meetings.

Is there a limit on numbers?

We hope to make provision for up to 1,000 delegates / observers, attending in person or by a video link. If more than this number apply, there will be a ballot.

Can delegates speak at the Congress?

Yes, although due to numbers, it may be necessary to ration the time available for floor discussion.

How will delegates vote?

Those attending physically will vote in person. Those on a video link will vote electronically.

How can that number link up by video?

By using webinar technology. Delegates should be able to participate in their homes via their own computer.

The Commission

Who will sit on the Commission?

We will look for individuals who are expert in the field of spelling (eg academics, authors, journalists, teachers).

How long will it sit?

About a year from the first session of the Congress to the resumed session.

Will the Congress instruct the Commission how to proceed?

The Congress will be asked to approve a conference document which will contain broad guidance as to how the Commission should go about its task. This will deal among other things with the overall objects of the process and whether there are any particular kinds of solution that should be favoured / treated with caution. But the Commission will have a largely free hand.

What is the role of market research?

We are proposing to commission some market research in the main countries of the English Speaking World which will throw some light on the degree of openness to spelling reform, and the kinds of solution which might be acceptable. The results will be made available to the Commission.

What is the relationship between long and short lists?

The Commission will be asked to draw up a long list of alternative proposals, taking into account the guidance in the conference document and the results of the market research. Once comments on the long list have been taken into account, the Commission will produce its final short list, probably of two.

What kind of Scheme will eventually be approved?

That is for the Congress to decide. It could involve just a few changes to traditional spelling or quite a few. The essential goal is to find an alternative that improves ease of learning but avoids unnecessary changes which will put off those who have already learned traditional spelling.

Will the final scheme be capable of use in the USA and the UK?

It is the intention that the alternative scheme finally approved will be capable of use throughout the English Speaking World as an acceptable, informal, alternative to traditional spelling until its merits are broadly recognised. But the Commission will have to decide how to go about this.

Submitting proposals for alternative spellings systems

I have a proposal. How do I submit it to the Congress?

On completion of the Congress’s first session, authors of spelling systems or methods may submit these to the Congress Secretariat.

Will there be a prize for the winner?

There will be an award, but without any monetary value.

Will the winner be able claim royalties?

No. Anyone wishing to have their proposal shortlisted will be asked to sign a contract agreeing that the work, if finally approved, will be made freely available for others to use. The moral right of the author(s) to be identified may be asserted.


I am interested in bidding for contracts connected with the Congress (eg hospitality, IT, market research).

It is early days. However, you can express an initial interest by emailing

What happens after the Congress has done its work?

The current plan is that the approved alternative will run alongside traditional spelling on an informal basis for a number of years. Success, if it comes, will depends on ordinary people adopting the new system, and not on any official support, government or otherwise. We are, however, including some provision in the budget for follow–up . It may be necessary to raise additional funds once the Congress is concluded. Our initial thinking includes the following possibilities for promoting the approved alternative:

  • a separate website for the new system;
  • formal endorsement of the new system by the Society and other reform minded bodies;
  • online converter or downloadable app to permit people to freely transcribe text into the new system without charge;
  • promoting articles in the new system in sympathetic papers;
  • encouraging publishers of dictionaries both paper and online to support the new system;
  • setting up a permanent Commission to oversee the introduction of the new system and to offer suggestions for improvements in the light of experience.

Any questions not answered above

Please contact:


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.
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Charles Darwin
  • Lord Tennyson
  • Mark Twain
  • Theodore Roosevelt


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