Some successful modern reforms of writing systems

Portuguese spelling reforms:
Matching language and writing system

Over one hundred million people in Portugal and former colonies share the same orthography and the same spelling reforms with only minor differences. This has prevented the dialects that have developed from becoming completely new languages.

The original Portuguese spelling system had been phonetic, but it was superseded by the 'pseudo-etymological' classical spellings of the Renaissance 'with utter disregard for pronunciation' (Williams, 1962) - a move also seen in English spelling up to 1800.

This was so awkward that a spelling commission was set up within four months of the fall of the Portuguese monarchy in 1911.Many surplus letters and consonant doublings were dropped.

Reform was seen as an important part of urgent social reforms and modernisation.

Minor but significant modifications have continued since 1931 through the co-operation of the Portuguese Academy of Sciences and the Brazilian Academy of Letters. Brazilian nationalists rebelled in 1934 and the 'anarchy' of the old Brazilian spelling of 1891 was reinstated, but after years of work, Brazil and Portugal finally signed an historic Orthographic Agreement in 1943.

Mayhew (1975) reported that the great expense in reprinting books and tragedy of cutting ties with the past that had been predicted did not eventuate after all. Educated Portuguese and Brazilians accepted the new forms more easily because they recognised their resemblance to Spanish and even Italian, thus showing a value for international commonalties.

Etymology and tradition together maintain some irregularities, and Portuguese and Brazilian spelling does differ slightly, but further reforms are expected.

In the same way, international agreement and some minor tolerated disagreement might also be feasible for English orthography despite differences between American and British English.