My Spelling Systems

Alan Beale
  July 15, 2006


This web site now contains documentation on 7 spelling systems which I have developed, and two more which are modified versions of someone else's work.  This page is a brief overview of the entire set, focusing on their major features, strengths and weaknesses.  Each system is described in more detail by one or more pages of its own elsewhere on this site.

DRE (Diacritically Regularized English)

DRE is the spelling system I find most worthy of serious consideration.  It was developed as a hybrid of Axel Wijk's Regularized English and Bob Boden's SRS.  The purpose of DRE is to minimally modify existing spelling, using diacritics, to improve its readability and regularity.  While it does make correct spelling somewhat easier, it does not make it logical or predictable.

The way that DRE works can be summarized in a few sentences.  DRE establishes pronunciation rules very similar to the rules of traditional spelling.  If a word's spelling is already appropriate according to these rules, the spelling is not changed.  (Examples: leaf, problem, magnificent.)  If its spelling can be modified by adding diacritics so that the DRE rules produce the correct pronunciation, the diacritics are added, but the spelling is not otherwise changed.  (Examples: lífe, bàrbecúe, magnificátion, irregülärity.)  Otherwise, its spelling is modified to indicate the correct pronunciation, and to differ as little as possible from the current spelling.  (Examples: flíet, côrnel, invázion, mòrtjùâry.)  The result is that DRE text is very easy reading for readers familiar with TS, but it is still possible for the pronunciation of unfamiliar words to be readily determined.

DRE has three modes of use: strict, reduced and stripped.  Reduced DRE allows diacritics to be omitted from very familiar words, suffixes, and constructions, so that, for instance, one can write for, engrave, goodness and contemplation in place of fòr, engráve, goodnêss and contemplátion.  Stripped DRE uses no diacritics, relying entirely on respelling words whose traditional spellings are misleading or inaccurate.  While stripped DRE loses all the benefits of diacritics, it is still arguably a better spelling system than TS.

Here is a famous passage from Douglas Adams' book "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" in reduced DRE:

In mâny ov the more relaxed civilizations on the Outer Eastern Rim ov the Galaxy, the Hitchhiker's Guide haz aulreddy suplanted the greyt Encýclopédìa Galactica az the standard repozitòry ov aul knolledj and wizdom, for tho it haz mâny omissions and contains much that iz apocryphal, or at least wíldly inaccürat, it scores óver the ólder, more pedestrìan wôrk in tew impòrtant respects.  First, it iz slíetly cheaper; and second, it haz the wôrds DÓN'T PANIC inscribed in làrj frendly letters on its côver.

Characteristics of  DRE which make it different from most other spelling systems are its frequent use of a variety of diacritics, its great similarity to TS (including use of magic e and endings like -cious and -tion), and its use of the letter j in consonant digraphs (in respelled words like presjur and mútjùal).  Because of its closeness to current spelling, DRE is suitable for use with British as well as American English.

For further information on DRE, see the DRE introductionDRE design and DRE reference pages.  These pages contain links to a number of other DRE pages - there is more DRE documentation on this site than for any of my other systems.


My systems other than DRE are collectively referred to as "Minglish".  Unlike DRE, these systems were designed for fun, as learning experiences, or both.  It is extremely unlikely that any of these systems will (or deserve to) ever see any real-world use.  The name Minglish was invented as a portmanteau word for "mangled English".  Using this designation reminds me, and the other participants in the continuing impassioned arguments about spelling reform on the Saundspel group, not to take things too seriously.

WLM (Weird-Looking Minglish)

WLM is my first spelling system.  I've been tinkering with it, off and on, for about 25 years now.  It was designed to be phonemic, compact and readable.  It is not particularly concerned with resemblance to current spelling, and uses a number of unfamilar conventions.  Despite the use of these strange conventions, I find WLM to be very readable.  Readers unfamiliar with WLM rarely misinterpret a WLM spelling as some word other than the one intended.

Noteworthy characteristics of WLM include:

  1. The use of c, x, jh and nq for the sounds more commonly written as ch, sh, zh and ng.  Examples:  ceez, vixus, neglijhay, strawnq.  dh is used for the hard th sound: dhat, breedh, klodhinq.

  2. An elaborate system for omitting the vowel letter for the schwa sound preceding a liquid consonant (l, m, n, or r).  Examples: jugl, kmpaxn, undrneeth.  In many words, ambiguities can result from leaving out the vowel entirely, which WLM handles by using a silent h as a separator: implhiet, forhm, knhekt, nacrhl.

  3. The use of the letter i for the schwa sound (when not eliminated entirely), which can lead to surprising spellings (from the point of view of a traditionalist): pitencl, sispixn, purpis, fotigraf.  At the start of a word, e is used for the schwa, which also produces some unusual spellings: eway, enles.

  4. The use of the letter z to indicate the plural, whether pronounced as s or z.  Examples: dawgz, katz, hors'z, kowz.

These features combine to give WLM a distinctive, unique appearance.  Here is the previous Hitchhiker passage rendered in WLM:

In meny ev dhi mor rilaksd sivlhizayxnz awn dhi Owtr Eestrn Rim ev dhi Galiksy, dhi Hic.hiekr'z Gied haz awlredy siplant'd dhi grayt Insieklipeediya Glhaktika az dhi standrd ripahzitory ev awl nahlij and wizdm, for dho it haz meny omixnz and kntaynz muc dhat iz epahkrifl, or at leest wihldly inakyrit, it skorz ovr dhi old'r, mor pidestriyn wurk in tue importnt rispektz.  Furst, it iz slietly ceep'r; and seknd, it haz dhi wurdz DON'T PANIK inskriebd in larj frendly letrz awn itz kuvr.

WLM is suitable only for American English, notably due to its use of the spelling ah for the short o.

For more information on WLM, see the WLM Reference and the WLM Introduction (which is itself written in WLM).

MCM (Mixed Case Minglish)

MCM is a system for phonemic spelling using lower-case and upper-case letters with different meanings.  It is not really suitable for use as a spelling system, but I find it very useful for describing pronunciation without resorting to diacritics, Sampa or the intricacies of IPA.  MCM uses the lower-case letters with conventional meanings, and upper-case letters and other symbols with less familiar meanings, ranging from C for the "ch" sound (as in Cip) and W for the "ow" sound (as in brWn) to Q for the "oi" sound (bQl) and & for the "ur" sound (b&n).  MCM makes sense only for American English.

Here is the Hitchhiker's Guide passage written in MCM.

.in menI uv D3 mOr rilakst sivLizEXNz On D3 WtR IstRn rim uv D3 galiksI, D3 hiChYkRz gYd haz OlredI s3plant3d D3 grEt .insYkl3pIdI3 .gLaktik3 az D3 standRd ripAzitOrI uv Ol nAlij and wizdM, fOr Do it haz menI omiXNz and kNtEnz muC Dat iz 3pAkrifL, or at lIst wYLdlI inakyRit, it skOrz ovR D3 oldR, mOr p3destrIN w&k in tU impOrtNt rispekts.  .f&st, it iz slYtlI CIpR; and sekNd, it haz D3 w&dz .dont .panik inskrYbd in lArj frendlI letRz On its kuvR.

A number of other systems, including Steve Bett's ENgliS and Gus Hasselquist's iGliS, implement the same idea, and they all tend to have more similarities than differences.  There are apparently two schools of thought that reformers can hold about these systems: either "All these systems are ugly, arbitrary and useless!" or "My system is much less ugly and arbitrary than all the other systems of this sort, and far more useful!"  I of course hold to the second opinion about MCM.  I have found the use of MCM very handy in describing the behavior of my other spelling systems; see the WLM Reference and the IRM Reference for illustrations.

For more information on MCM, see the MCM Reference.

FLOSS (Fonemic Latin-One Spelling System)

FLOSS is a variant of MCM that was created as a side-effect of my FLEWSY project.  It differs from MCM by using some more exotic symbols, and by making some distinctions that MCM does not.  For instance, it uses both o and A to denote the American short o sound, and uses ý in place of I to denote an unstressed long e.  These changes make FLOSS less phonemic than MCM, while making it easier to transform into other notations.  Anyone who finds MCM painful to look at is not going to be any happier with FLOSS.  Like MCM, FLOSS is presently usable only with American English, though possibly this will be remedied in a future version.

Here is the FLOSS version of the above Hitchhiker's Guide passage:

.in mený uv Dø mØr riLaksþ sivøLêzEXøn$ Øn Dø WtR IstRn rim uv Dø gaLøksý, Dø hiChYkR$ gYd haz ØLredý søpLantêþ Dø grEt .insYkLøpIdýø .gøLaktikø az Dø standRd ripozêtØrý uv ØL noLij and wizdøm, fØr DO it haz mený ømiXøn$ and køntEn$ muC Dat iz øpokrøføL, Ør at LIst wYLdLý inakyRêt, it skØr$ OvR Dø OLdR, mØr pødestrýøn w&k in tU impØrtønt rispekt$.  .f&st, it iz sLYtLý CIpR; and sekønd, it haz Dø w&d$ .dOnt .panik inskrYbþ in LArj frendLý LetRz Øn its kuvR.

For more information on FLOSS, see the FLOSS reference.

IRM (Improved Readability Minglish)

My IRM spelling system was developed as an experiment.  I designed IRM to differ from WLM in the following ways:

  1. IRM uses double consonants to indicate stressed short vowels, as in the words plassid, astronnomy, and tellegraff.

  2. IRM uses more conventional symbols for most of the troublesome sounds of English than WLM: cheez, vishus, neglizhae, strawng.  Additionally, the letters q and x are used with something like their traditional meanings: liquid, tranqul, expell, axxent.

  3. IRM uses the apostrophe to separate vowels in vowel combinations rather than the more ad hoc methods of WLM: raede'o, ki'oety, gradju'aet.

  4. IRM jettisons most of the complex handling of syllabic liquids of WLM, in favor of shortening a few simple but common cases.  IRM writes juggl and kmpashn, but impoliet and nacheral.

  5. IRM uses the letter s to indicate plurals: dawgs, kats, horces, kows.  The use of -s rather than -z necessitates the use of the combination -ce in many words, to avoid the appearance of a plural: horce, defence, spiece, furnace.

  6. Instead of using a specific letter for the schwa, IRM uses the same letter as in the traditional spelling: apart, rivvet, timmid, mellody, suport.

IRM was a valuable and interesting experiment, but I believe it to be a failed experiment.  Some parts of it, such as the system for vowel combinations, work quite well, but I believe the use of double consonants, which was the main motivation for the system, to be a dismal failure.  It is inconsistent, and obscures the relationships between related words, such as je'ollojy and je'olodjikl.  As a result, I have stopped developing, evangelizing and writing in IRM.

IRM differs in appearance from most spelling systems primarily in its extensive use of double letters, its notation for vowel combinations, and the use of the -ce digraph.  Here is the Hitchhiker paragraph in IRM:

In menny uv dhe mor relaxxd sivvlizaeshns awn dhe Owtr Eestrn Rim uv dhe Gallaxy, dhe Hichhiekr's Gied haz awlreddy suplanted dhe graet Ensieklopeede'a Galaktika az dhe standrd repozzitory uv awl nollej and wizdm, for dho it haz menny oemishns and kntayns much dhat iz apokrifl, or at leest wieldly inakyerat, it skors oevr dhe oelder, mor pedestre'n wurk in tue importnt respekts.  Furst, it iz slietly cheeper; and seknd, it haz dhe wurds DOEN'T PANNIK inskriebd in larj frendly lettrs awn its kuvvr.

Like WLM, IRM is unsuitable for use with British English, due to its use of a single representation (o) for the short o and the broad a, which are distinguished in British English.

For more information on IRM, see the IRM reference.

WMM (Weirdly Marked Minglish)

WMM is another experimental spelling system.  It was designed around two principles:  the use of the acute and grave accents to indicate long and stressed short vowels respectively, and the use of unaccented vowels to indicate the schwa.  WMM is a simple system, far simpler than any other of my systems but MCM, but it nevertheless has some elements of interest.  Noteworthy characteristics of WMM include:

  1. WMM does not represent long vowels exclusively with an acute accent.  An accented vowel is used when the vowel is unstressed, when it appears at the end of a word, or when it precedes another vowel.  In other cases, a digraph is used.  Thus WMM spells lókaishon, réaliez and okeupí, but loansom, freely and pôrkeupien.

  2. WMM leaves out the diacritic for a stressed short vowel in a one-syllable word, or in the first syllable when the second syllable is an unstressed short vowel or long e, as in: mud, level, kandy.

  3. Like IRM, WMM spells the schwa sound with the same vowel as traditional spelling.  I have become convinced this is the most useful way of spelling the schwa sound.

  4. WMM spells most of the troublesome consonant sounds of English in the familiar way: cheez, vishus, théater, breedh.  Like WLM, it spells the zh sound as jh: neglijhá.  The ng sound is spelled with the unusual ñ symbol, as in: strôñ, driñk, fiñger.

  5. To avoid ambiguity with the way that h is used in digraphs, the English h sound is spelled with the x, as in xèló, mìsxàp and kôrtxàus.

  6. Like WLM, WMM uses the letter z as a plural indicator and the letter d as a past tense indicator, regardless of the actual pronunciation.

  7. WMM uses several different spellings for certain American sounds for which there is more than one British equivalent, as with fâdher/bodher or bairabel/tèribel.  This makes it possible for WMM to spell American and British English with minimal differences.

Despite its name, WMM looks considerably less weird than my other Minglish systems.  The combination of diacritics with vowel digraphs, plus the unusual use of ñ and x, are the main ways it differs from other similar systems.  Here is the Hitchhiker paragraph in WMM:

In meny ov dhe môr rêlàksd sivilizaishonz on dhe Àuter Eestern Rim ov dhe Galaksy, dhe Xìchxieker'z Gied xaz ôlrèdy suplànted dhe grait Ênsieklopeedýa Galàktika az dhe standard rêpòzitôry ov ôl nolêj and wizdom, fôr dhó it xaz meny ómìshonz and kontainz much dhat iz apòkrifal, ôr at leest wieldly inàkeurat, it skôrz oaver dhe oalder, môr pedèstrýan wërk in tú impôrtant rêspèktz.  Fërst, it iz slietly cheeper; and sekond, it xaz dhe wërdz DOANT PANIK inskriebd in lârj frendly leterz on its kuver.

I have mixed feelings about WMM as a system.  On the one hand I find it reads very comfortably, and seems quite natural once you get used to the x.  On the other hand, I find it quite difficult to write in WMM because I find it hard to accurately determine stress.  I have done very little evangelism for WMM, since I haven't come up with any reasons it is either particularly interesting or superior to other phonemic systems.

For more information on WMM, see the WMM reference page.


Arbdot is a spelling system developed as an alternative to Bob Boden's Bobdot.  I designed it to differ from Bobdot in certain areas I considered important, while emulating it in all other respects.  The idea was to allow these important differences to be evaluated without the distractions of minor and unimportant differences.  See here for a (biased) comparison of Arbdot to Bobdot.

Noteworthy characteristics of Arbdot which are the same as Bobdot are the following:

  1. Arbdot uses diacritics to indicate both length and stress.  An unaccented vowel letter represents an unstressed short vowel.  A vowel with a dieresis (as in insïst) represents a stressed short vowel.  Similarly, an acute accent is used for a long stressed vowel (compyút), and a grave accent for a long unstressed vowel (slólè).  The dieresis is omitted from the first vowel of a word if it could not possibly be unstressed, as in cat, candè and sanitáshon.

  2. The diphtongs ou and oi are written öu and öi when stressed, and are changed to ow and oy at the end of a word or before a vowel: boy, boil, enjöy, royaltè, cow, couch, alöw, coward.
  3. Arbdot spells most of the troublesome consonant sounds of English in the usual way: chéz, vishus, neglizhá, that, smúth.  There are two exceptions.  The unvoiced th sound is spelled with tþ, as in tþéater.  The ng sound is spelled with ng in the last syllable of a word, but as ñ elsewhere, as in: amüng, strength, siñgul, añzíetè.

  4. The k sound is spelled with the letter c before the vowels a, o and u, and with k elsewhere: cat, cáv, kid, klam, kweschon, akyút, majik.

Noteworthy characteristics of Arbdot which are different from Bobdot are the following:

  1. Like IRM and WMM, Arbdot spells the schwa sound with the same vowel as traditional spelling.

  2. The vowels â, êr, ô and û indicate the vowel sounds of fâther, bêrd, dôter and pûsh, respectively.  These can be either stressed or unstressed, except that êr is always stressed.

  3. An important characteristic of Arbdot is that it does not change the spelling when words are constructed from other words, even if a change is implied by the rules above.  For instance, Arbdot spells singing, cowboy, enjoyment and majikal, not siñing, couboy, enjoiment and majical, as you might expect.

  4. Like WLM and WMM, Arbdot uses the letter z as a plural indicator and the letter d as a past tense indicator, regardless of the actual pronunciation.

  5. Like WMM, Arbdot uses several different spellings for certain American sounds for which there is more than one British equivalent, as with fâdher/bodher or scárè/cherè.  This makes it possible for Arbdot to spell American and British English with minimal differences.

Arbdot differs from most systems in its heavy use of diacritics, particularly the dieresis and grave accents, and its avoidance of digraphs (other than ou/ow and oi/oy).  In particular, the use of è in place of the ending -y vowel is quite distinctive.  Although, not surprisingly, it looks a lot like Bobdot, its handling of the schwa allows it to avoid the dominance of the u vowel which is one of Bobdot's distinguishing features.  Here is the Hitchhiker's paragraph in Arbdot.

In menè ov the môr reläksd sivilizáshonz on the Outer Éstern Rim ov the galaksè, the Hichhíker'z Gíd haz ôlrëdè suplänted the grát Ensíklopédèa Galäktika az the standard repözitôrè ov ôl nolej and wizdom, fôr thó it haz menè ómïshonz and contánz much that iz apökrifal, ôr at lést wíldlè inäkyurat, it scôrz óver the ólder, môr pedëstrèan wêrk in tú impôrtant respëktz.  Fêrst, it iz slítlè chéper; and second, it haz the wêrdz DÓN'T PANIK inskríbd in lârj frendlè leterz on its cuver.

Arbdot can be thought of as a version of WMM with changes to make it resemble Bobdot.  I prefer WMM, mostly because I prefer digraphs for stressed long vowels.  I consider Arbdot more interesting as a competitor to Bobdot than as a system in its own right.

For more information on Arbdot, see the Arbdot reference page.


Arbdash, as you might guess from the name, started as an outgrowth of Arbdot, but it no longer resembles it very much.  I developed Arbdash with the goal of expressing both British and American pronunciation, in a way that minimized the impact of the differences.  I feel that Arbdash was very successful in meeting this goal; regrettably, it has a disadvantage that will likely exclude it from serious use.

The most important characteristics of Arbdash are as follows:

  1. As with most of my systems, it uses vowel diacritics extensively.  Long vowels are generally indicated with an acute accent, and stressed short vowels with a circumflex.

  2. As in Arbdot and most of my other systems, unaccented vowels indicate either the schwa, or an unstressed, short vowel.  The same vowel is generally written for a schwa as in traditional spelling.

  3. Additional vowel sounds are indicated by use of the dieresis and grave accents.  The assignment of accents is made so that common American-British pronunciation differences are manifested as a mere difference of diacritics.  Some examples of the same word written in American and British Arbdash: grasp/gräsp, löng/long, hùry/hury, pátrÿot/patrÿot, sekretàry/sekretary.  In a list of 27,000 words, only about 600 words had differences that required more than a change of diacritics in Arbdash.
  4. Because of the abundance of sounds associated with the letter u, Arbdash utilizes two unusual forms of this letter, ŭ for the sound of pŭsh, and ű for the sound of műzik.  These two characters are not in the standard computer character sets (Latin-1 and Windows-1252), which makes their use in E-mail or on the Web somewhat difficult.

  5. Because diacritics over the letter i can be difficult to read, long i is indicated in Arbdash by the digraph iy rather than by í.  Simply comparing the appearance of fínal (with the accent) and finisħ (without it) should be enough to convince you of the problem.

  6. Arbdash is much like my other systems in its handling of consonants.  The symbol ħ is used in most digraphs, to allow words like mîshâp and mîsħmâsħ to be readily distinguished.  Similarly, the symbol ğ is used when necessary to distinguish the possible interpretations of ng: "finger" and "singer" are spelled in Arbdash as finger and sinğer respectively.  Arbdash borrows from Arbdot the use of the digraph tþ for the voiceless th sound of tþéater.

The four characters ŭ, ű, ħ and ğ are the most distinctive features of Arbdash, and its Achilles heel.  The ħ and ğ could be dispensed with, but I consider the extra u forms to be essential for allowing pronunciation differences like hŭf/húf (hoof) and tún/tűn (tune) to be expressed as diacritical differences.  And, alas, the use of these characters limits one to software that supports Unicode.  Because each of the four letters has a different origin (Esperanto, Hungarian, Maltese and Turkish respectively), there is also not a standard Windows keyboard map allowing them all to be typed.  For this reason, Arbdash has no future, even though I consider it to be my technically most successful project after DRE.

Here is the usual Hitchhiker's excerpt in Arbdash.  American/British pronunciation differences are indicated by the pairs of spellings in red braces.

In meny ov tħe mör relâksd {sivilizásħonz|siviliyzásħonz} on tħe Owter Éstern Rim ov tħe Galaksy, tħe Hîcħhiyker'z Giyd haz ölrêdy {suplanted|suplänted} tħe grát Ensiyklopédÿa Galâktika az tħe standard {repôzitöry|repôzitory} ov öl nolej and wizdom, for tħó it haz meny ómîsħonz and kontánz mucħ tħat iz apôkrifal, ör at lést wiyldly {inâkürat|inâkűrat}, it skörz óver tħe ólder, mör pedêstrÿan wùrk in tú impörtant respêktz. Fùrst, it iz sliytly cħéper; and sekond, it haz tħe wùrdz DÓN'T PANIK inskriybd in lärj frendly leterz on its kuver.

For more information on Arbdash, see the preliminary Arbdash page.

RLI (Rifaurmd Lojikl Inglish)

RLI perhaps does not belong on this page - as it is not primarily my own work.  RLI is a "reformed" version of Rollo Reid's system Lojikl Inglish.  Lojikl Inglish is a phonemic system of a sort that is not my style - if I had designed it, it would be entirely different.  I am, however, impressed with the learnability and ease of use of Lojikl Inglish, while at the same time annoyed by some features I find either illogical or too dependent on Rollo's particular dialect.  So I was moved to put out my own version, changing it as little as possible, and trying to stay faithful to Rollo's original design principles.  RLI is still not a system to my taste (unlike Arbdot, which is extremely comfortable for me even if the original ideas are mostly Bob Boden's), and so I'm not going to go into detail here on how it works.  See the RLI reference for all the details.

Here is the Hitchhiker's Guide excerpt in RLI:

In meny ov thi maur rilaxt siveulizaeshnz on thi outr Eestrn Rim ov thi galaksy, thi Hichhiekr'z Gied haz aulredy seuplantid thi graet Insiekleupeedia G'laktika az thi standrd ripozitaury ov aul nolij and wizdm, fr thoe it haz meny oemishnz and kntaenz much that iz eupokrifl, aur at leest wieldly inakyeurit, it skaurz oevr thi oeldr, maur pidestriun weurk in too impaurtnt rispekts.  Feurst, it iz slietly cheepr; and seknd, it haz thi weurdz DOEN'T PANIK inskriebd in laarj frendly letrz on its kuvr.

If you change all the the thi's above to just th, you will have a pretty good idea what unmodified Lojikl Inglish looks like.  (This is one of the changes in RLI that especially irritates Rollo, I hasten to add.)

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