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Correspondence, evidence, and current developments.

We needed practical evidence that all sorts and conditions of persons, at home and abroad, can easily learn and write and spell with the Shaw Alphabet. Such evidence depended upon an organised correspondence invited by Sir James Pitman on page 16 of Androcles. By the time his invitation was published, he had become so fully engaged in other activities that he sent me an SOS. If correspondence was to be organised at all, I must do it.

I accepted the task with an entirely free hand, for it was possible that minor problems, unforeseeable by theory, might emerge from the alphabet's use by persons of all sorts, ages and dialects. A Guide to Shavian Spellings was prepared and I awaited results. Experience thus gained, being largely technical, is detailed elsewhere. Enough to say that Londoners, Scots, Americans, while raw beginners, regarded their personal speech as the 'proper' English, but were contentedly conforming in a matter of weeks to the printed spellings of Androcles and the journal Shaw-script; for a ready conformity saves thought and meets readers' expectations.

It was observed that unskilled or hasty scribblers wrote no less decipherably in the new alphabet, but that four of its characters tended to be malformed grotesquely.

After four years of handling correspondence it seemed clear to me that some graphic and phonetic changes in the alphabet would increase its already striking facilities. With this - possibly unique - practical experience to go on, it seemed a duty to implement it in a final alphabet, one differing even less from the now unalterable Shaw Alphabet than that had differed from Sweet's.

So, with help and encouragement from writers willing to test changes rigorously in circulated correspondence, I gradually evolved the 'Quickscript Alphabet'. Its manual, issued late in 1966, is in the British Museum Library, the Library of Congress and elsewhere, including Reading University Library (where the technicalities and history of these alphabets is documented).

Since early 1967 Quickscript has been used satisfactorily. Among those able to speak with equal experience of both Shaw-script and Quickscript are Professor Russell Graves of North Carolina University, who drafts his stage plays in Quickscript, and Mr E J Canty of Portsmouth, who was a fellow competitor in 1959. All who have experience of writing in both alphabets prefer Quickscript's facilities and its relative simplicity in sound-writing.

It is to be doubted whether the Sweet-Shaw-Read line of evolution can go much further. Its use is learnt with ease. It enables both script and print to be done with marked economies. If research establishes the greater efficiency of a modern alphabet in advance, another generation may see it "used and taught", as Shaw hoped, "concurrently with the old alphabet until one or the other proves the fitter to survive."


[1] President of the Simplified Spelling Society 1946-68.

[2] A Lloyd James wrote the Preface to the 5th edition of the Simplified Spelling Society's New Spelling (1940).

[3] President of the Simplified Spelling Society 1968-1972 and originator of the Initial Teaching Alphabet.

[4] A total of 265 remaining copies were passed to the SSS in 1991, and have since been distributed mainly to members.


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TSS. updated 2006.05.21 The Spelling Society


Date: 2015-01-29; view: 965

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