Spelling design for the needs and abilities of READERS

What sort of spelling could be user frendly for everyone - readers, writers and learners?


Most readers of English today read poorly, read little and do not enjoy reading. This dislike has been aquired during the troublesome business of lerning present spelling, by whatever method. So many just guess and misread awkward words and miss the sense - hence the popularity of the literacy theory that all readers reconstruct what they read, rather than try to understand what the writer is trying to say.
Readers cannot use much of the new vocabulary they learn from reading, because pronunciation is uncertain.

Readers need a spelling system that allows them to use faster and more accurate reading strategies and that gives them more pleasure in less effortful reading.

What features of a spelling system help readers?

  • The visual distinctivness of words in text facilitates fast recognition.
When words have no excess letters, they are streamlined, and their structure becomes more visible and the text more compact - easier to skim acuratly and to recollect visually. Consonant-vowel-consonant sequences are more visualy distinctiv, with their patterns of ascenders and descender, than strings of vowels or consonants.

Shorter words do not necessarily make faster reading, but variety in the length of words increases their visual distinctivness, and promotes imediat automatic visual recognition of words and the structure of sentences.

  • Ease and reliability of phonic decoding.
A consistent spelling system makes new words imediatly decodable, and this imediate decodability is a back-up to ensure accurate recognition of familiar words.

Shorter words are easier to decode/encode than long ones. Simplified spelling of vowel sequences is easier to decode than a labored attempt at fonemic representation, e.g. HÌWAY is easier to read than HEIOUAE, and PÒET than POEET.

  • Reading for meaning.
Morfemes, units of meaning, can be clearer when vowel spellings are moderated by their medial or final position, e.g. PLAYBOY not PLAIBOI.
  • Diacritics in reading.
Frequent interruptions of print by apostrofes and similar diacritics can disrupt fluent silent reading - as they can signal pauses in oral reading. The least intrusiv are grav accents, cedillas and dots. Readers can use them or ignore these according to need for aid in pronunciation or word recognition. This is a matter to consider in relation to one of the greatest problems to consider in English spelling design - the close relationship of long and short vowels which can interchange within word families, so that a single letter for both sounds, but with one accented, would retain the morfeme.
  • Adjustment to spelling change
by readers of present spelling. A clean-up of present English spelling would require minimum adaptation, compared to spelling reform that brought in a new system of any kind.
Deletion of surplus letters is barely noticed if at all, but changes of letters or additions cause initial disruption. The more frequent the usage of a word, the more intrusive seems any change in it - the basic reason why irregular verb forms and spellings remain more common among the words most frequently used.
Since most spelling reform proposals have included, prominently, changes rather than deletions of letters, and especially changes in the most common words, readers have tended to react to their proposals with knee-jerk conservatism and ridicule.
Since their changes have often resembled spellings commonly used to show vulgar dialect, this ridicule has had a strong snob basis too. Who wants to spell like a washerwoman is supposed to talk, even if we all now actually say WOZ and WUNS and HOO?

Interestingly, however, among the young, the influence and prestige of ghetto blacks through their culture and its rap music, also extends to their spelling, as in GANGSTA and MASTA.

  • Reading habits.
Readers who develop poor reading strategies while learning can be permanently handicapped. The less trouble caused the spelling of the writing system, then it can be expected that the more likely that reading strategies can develop unhampered by quirks and built-in hesitancies, problems of recognition of less familiar words, and slow decoding or pot-luck guessing from context of unfamiliar words. Poor readers are more likely to have to backtrack to check their accuracy or to remember the sense, if an alphabetic writing system does not adequately support short-term auditory memory.
Now see Design of spelling for writers

Back to Spelling Index Page

Further pages on spelling:

 1. Introduction

Introduction to spelling improvement. Text of a radio broadcast
Rationale. How assumptions and barriers against improving the writing system do not hold. Answering the common objections to spelling improvement.

2 Needs and abilities of users and learners: -

i. Needs and abilities of readers
ii. Needs and abilities of writers to spell
iii. Needs and abilities of learners
iv. Needs and abilities of users of international English
v. Spelling reform for the Internet (an older page) http://home.vicnet.net.au/~ozideas/spinternet.htm

3. The nature and teaching of English spelling

See the online video, http://www.ozreadandspell.com.au
The underlying English spelling system that could be made more consistent
Spelling patterns for the English vowels
The Book of Spells & Misspells
- a treasury of spelling for everyone
22 Lessons in reading and spelling
The 16 word spelling test for anyone who thinks they can spell
Spelling and classroom practices - sclassprac.htm

4 Improving English spelling

Spelling improvement. 2002.
Seven principles to repair English spelling, 2005
Cutting out the surplus letters in words.Streamline - a first step in updating spelling.
Quik gidelines for a next step, with sampl texts, and furthr notes /sfastrs.htm. FASTR Spelling
Cutting out surplus letters. 2002
Further steps you can try yourself, with f, j, consistent word endings and vowel spellings.
Further experiments to spel sensibly - Pronunciation and gramr, and a final solusion? 2000
The future of English spelling. What can be done?

5. Spelling as an entertainment

Spelling Games - starting with a Spelling ABC - different from a Spelling BEE
16-word Spelling Test of 16 common words that few experts can spell all correctly. /16sp.htm
International English Spelling Day, October 9 /spday.html
How people spelled when they spelled as they liked before the 18th century dictionaries /spfree17c.htm
Don Quixote spells in 'Spelling without traps'. - /spquixote.htm. To come
Twelve Short Short storys about the fùtùr. Can u imagin a mor ùser-frendly speling sistem? Look at every wurd to see if u think its speling is a trap for lerners.