Spelling design for the needs and abilities of WRITERS

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


Competent spellers are rare, and perfect spellers rarer still.

Most of us are 'problem spellers', trying to remember the unpredictabl spelling patterns, what the surplus letters are and where they go, and how to spel obscure vowels.

'Bad Spellers' really show that present spelling is 'Bad'.
'Bad Spellers' also show 'how peple would prefer to spel'.
'Bad Spellers' tend to spel foneticaly, e.g. GARANTEE, and to shorten rather than lengthen spellings - e.g. ACOMODATE.

They have problems in 'remembering' what vowel letter to use for a schwa sound, when there is no rational guide - e.g. ABLE or IBLE>

A cause of other mistakes is trying to imitate the fecklessness of present spelling, in a vain hope of hitting the mark e.g. "'surf '- no, that can't be right, try 'serghe'". When extra letters are added, it is commonly by analogy with a similar sounding word - which may be a word that now needs a spelling rationalisation, e.g. PRIVILEDGE by analogy with KNOWLEDGE, and MISCHEVIOUS by analogy with PREVIOUS.

Most 'Bad Spellers' would be able to spel wel if they could have rational rules rather than trying to ransack desperat memories or time-consuming dictionries. A principl of 'When in dout leave it out' could prevent throwing in extra letters 'just in case'.

Present 'good spellers' who have worked hard to become good spellers in present spelling, could continue to be 'good' spellers if spelling improvement is transitional, with the new co-existing with the old. As readers aclimatise to reading consistent and streamlined spellings they can and will gradualy change to writing them, as is already happening with many alternativ spellings once dictionaries allow them - e.g. PROGRAM for PROGRAMME, FANTASY for PHANTASY.

Writers' effort, time, costs,ink, paper, hassl and trees could all be saved by a more economical, consistent spelling.

Studies of spelling mistakes
These studies show the sorts of spelling improvement that would help writers most - see for example, the review of studies by Kimball (JSSS 1999). The words most commonly misspelled have 'surplus' letters that writers have omitted because there is no rationale about what they are or where to put them. Kimball gives many exampls and mor can be added. Surplus letters are the most common troublesome factor in 'Spelling Demons' (Yule 1991)

Dictionary acceptance of easier alternativ spellings

Now over time an increasing number of words with 'surplus-spelling ' patterns have alternative, more concise spellings accepted as alternativ spellings in dictionaries. Kimball gives exampls of alternative spellings now accepted in several dictionaries even if not yet in all . These include:

Omitting surplus letters: - unnecessary consonant doubling, as in QUESTIONAIRE, CHLOROPHYL, TRANQUILITY, BANDANA; words ending in -OGUE, as in ANALOG; containing -OUGH as in DONUT, THRU; containing -IGH as in HI-TECH; ending in IE, E as in CALORY, EERY; ending in ETTE as in BRIQUET, STOCKINET; ending in E as in ANILIN, ABSINTH; added consonants before inflections as in PROGRAMER, KIDNAPING; containing AE, OE as in MEDIEVAL, ESTHETIC, AMEBA (now the preferred spelling in scientific dictionaries); words with extra vowels, as in CAGY, GAGE, GILD, GLAMOR, HARKEN, STEDFAST, TROLLY; words with extra consonants, as iin DUMFOUND, GUERILLA, MACINTOSH, VEGIE, CASETTE, CAMELIA, FRANTICLY, TIC-TAC-TOE, ACCIDENTLY; words changed, with fewer letters as in RIME, EQUIVOKE. Even the surplus H in Greek-derived words is being eroded, as in LACRIMAL, and F replacing PH as in FANTASY, CALIF.

Dictionaries vary, but Random House College Edition 1997 even accepts U for YOU.

Letters changed to more regular spelling patterns and/or closer to pronunciation:


Letters unchanged when words are inflected LIQUIFY, PUTRIFY, SPACIAL, TENDONITIS.

This process for improving English spelling could be speeded up, especially now that lexicographers are able to pay more attention to how people really spell, since their personal spellings are now publicly accessibl on the Internet, usually untouched by any non-human spellchecking.

Further pages on spelling:

1. Introduction

Introduction to spelling improvement. /spockham.htm. 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. /sration.htm

2 Needs and abilities of users and learners: -

i. Needs and abilities of readers /sreadsp.htm
ii. Needs and abilities of writers to spell - /swritsp.htm
iii. Needs and abilities of learners - /slernsp.htm
iv. Needs and abilities of users of international English - /sintrnt.htm
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 - 16sp.htm
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. /ssurplu.htm
Quik gidelines for a next step, with sampl texts, and furthr notes /sfastrs.htm. FASTR Spelling
Cutting out surplus letters.
Further steps you can try yourself, with f, j, consistent word endings and vowel spellings. /intspel2.htm
Further experiments to spel sensibly - Pronunciation and gramr, and a final solusion? /intspel3.htm 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
How people spelled when they spelled as they liked before the 18th century dictionaries /spfree17c.htm
Don Quixote spells in 'Spelling without traps'. . 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.