Spelling design for the needs and abilities of
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 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
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
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:
EXORCIZE, EMPRIZE, VIZOR, ANEURISM, SILLABUB, TIMPANUM,
LINGUINI, SWOP, GINGKO, ALINE, TRESSEL, PIGMY, GIPSY
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.
Now see Spelling for International
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