A major problem for improving English spelling is that hundreds of amateurs have invented schemes to make their own sound-symbol correspondences regardless of the fact that present English spelling holds a tremendous amount of the world's print, past and present.

These schemes scare off everybody else, to think that spelling reform must be hare-brained and impossible.

Any reform to be practicable must be a simple modification of what we have already - until there is some breakthru to a writing system that can cross languages - like Chinese but without its problems.

Here are some criteria for practicable reform.

Criteria for practical improvement of English spelling

The ideal writing system would cross languages and meet all needs for reading, writing and learning. This breakthrough has not yet been invented.

What is possible now

Our present spelling can be made more user-frendly and efficient internationally than it is now. Learners could then 'teach themselves to read' using audiovisual tecnology - which is not fully feasible with present spelling as it is.

In the present fluid state of language and the Internet, spelling improvements can be introduced
in the same way as changes in the spoken language, by changes in common practice.

These can also be tested on the Internet, so that no proposal is taken up simply because it seems fine in theory.

Then an International English Language Commission can standardise and authorise the most efficient solutions.

New characters are not yet posibl for everyday use that would allow one-sound-one-symbol correspondence for the 40+ sounds in English speech. This probably has to wait until the QUERTY querty keyboard is overtaken by progress.

However it is posibl to hav a practicabl spelling reform would meet all the common objections to improving English spelling

  • The status quo is the underlying reason for all opposition to all modifications of a writing system. English spelling is still regarded as a totem rather than as an instrument for comunication.Yet Spelling is not the English language - it is a means to communicate the language. However, once a change is made and found to be better, the new status quo is preferred - as with other reforms around the world that were originally resisted- such as the recent official reforms in Germany.
  • It is not true that the interests of readers, writers, learners and computers are so conflicting that any reform that helps one group must hurt another. Challengeable arguments and assumptions underlie these claims (See Part 2). An improved spelling can be designed to meet their different interests and their common interests too.
  • International communication. A standardised updated English spelling would be internationally more efficient for communication rather than more divisive - unlike 'spelling as you speak' reform.
  • Access to our heritage of print can be maintained. 'Fastr Spelling' is backward compatibl with present spelling, and is even often closer to the spelling of Chaucer than the present. It can be read on first sight. It keeps a close visual resemblance to present English spelling and up to 95% of letters in text remain unchanged
  • Present readers need no extra training to read or spell. Transitions would be phased in as alternatives for present spelling, accepted in dictionaries, as many changes are already being accepted.
  • 'Fastr Spelling' is not 'spelling as you speak' which would lead to a confusion of idiosyncratic spellings and dialects. Most people, including most spelling reformers, assume that any spelling reform must be 'spelling as you speak', regardless of other overseas models of writing systems. 'Fastr Spelling' transcends the problems of dialects, because it makes a standardised broad-band 'diafonic' representation of speech.
    Spelling conventions are like conventionalised drawings which are universally recognised, for example, a stick-figure man which is unlike a photograph of a specific man. One broad sound category can 'embrace all those different phonemes (speech sounds) from which a listener is able to identify and comprehend a word, in however many regional and individual pronunciations it may be spoken.' (Pitman & St. John 1969.)

    The principles of 'Fastr Spelling' are consistent, clear and simple, as with Italian and Spanish spelling. An example of this in practice is how English words are respelt in pidgin Englishes - uncluttered and 'broad-band' to facilitate fast learning and easy comunication by the masses. Another example is how anyone can read or spell banana, regardless of their own dialect, although the one simpl spelling 'a' is used for three speech sounds. To respell it with closer phonics such as bannaana would advantage noone except pedants.
  • 'Chomsky principles' for optimum spelling are extended, not disregarded. Visual relationships of word families (morphemes) and grammatical markers are enhanced, not patchy, and so facilitates fast reading for meaning, give visual clues to understand unfamiliar vocabulary, and maintain spelling resemblances to the vocabulary held globally in common by many languages.
  • The nature of the English language. 'Fastr Spelling' is designed to suit the English language with its multiple linguistic origins, compound word-structure, many homophones and 40+ phonemes yet with only 26 roman letters to spell them.
  • Costs of change are less than you think, because it is a clean-up not a shake-up, and transition is by merging.
    1. Cost-benefits include shorter learning time for beginners, reduced failure rates, skill-improvement for the already literate, and the advantages of a literate people
    2. Fastr Spelling's economy is a significant saving in materials, effort and time - text is 12-15% shorter . Even the first step, omitting surplus letters, saves 5-10% of letters.
    3. Printing costs. Electronic updating of print is now at the touch of a button. Almost everything that most people read today has been printed or reprinted in the past ten years, so that introduction of new spelling does not require excessive special new publishing, except for dictionaries. Present print would remain easily accessible for many years even after the final steps in reform.
  • That is, the advantages of present English spelling are maintained, while the disadvantages are cleaned up.
Trivial arguments -

' Isn't our antiquated spelling lovely!''

The urgent need for mass literacy should be more important than the private delights of mulling over 'quaint' spellings which may have up to ten or so different ways to pronounce them, such as

Cof . . . . . Doh . . . . . Loch . . . .Ruf . . . . .Slow . . . . .Thru . . . . . . . Thaut . . . . . . Thurra

What becomes familiar becomes more loved than what is obsolete and unused.
Etymology is retained in Fastr Spelling when it gives clues to meanin, but not when it is a mere antiquarian interest better catered for in dictionaries, as other languages use dictionaries. Nobody wants to have the history of their cars, computers or space rockets built into their dashboards and keyboards permanently - but they like reading about them elsewhere.

'I worked hard to spell, so everyone else should.'

Difficult English spelling has been valued as a social screening test that sorts out people, and keeps off competition on the ladder to success. But today we need efficiency, mass literacy and cutting waste more than we need an elite. English spelling snobbery was given by the Swedish sociologist Veblen as a conspicuous example of wasteful 'Conspicuous Consumption'.

'Not in my time, O Lord!'

Do not worry. The spelling changes recommended here can co-exist and mix with present spelling. Traditionalists can continue to read and write in present spelling. They can read Fastr Spelling with ease, but need never write it themselves.

Trivial spelling exceptions.

Quibbles such as how to re-spell MAUVE or CALF do not justify mothballing reform yet again, for a ha'porth of tar. Some posers are soluble by pronouncing them as they are spelt - as happens already among those 'not in the know'. Until a finalised reform, a few minor 'exception' spellings can remain as temporary concessions for current readers and no major problem for new readers.

What is Fastr Spelling? Read about it.

What is the next step, Interspel?