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Quikscript (also known as the Read Alphabet and Second Shaw) is an alphabet (and phonemic orthography) specifically designed for the English language. Quikscript replaces traditional English orthography, which uses the Latin alphabet, with completely new letters. It is phonemically regular, compact, and comfortably and quickly written. There are also adapted Quikscript alphabets for other languages, using the same letters for sounds which do not exist in English.


Origins and History

George Bernard Shaw, famous writer, critic and playwright, was a highly vocal critic of English spelling because it lacked a coherent system for representing the phonemes of English accurately. As a result, for years he wrote his literary works using Pitman shorthand. However, he found its limitations frustrating as well and realized that it was not a suitable replacement for the Latin alphabet. A shorthand is, by definition, more specialized than an alphabet, which represents the standard written form of a language. Shaw desired and advocated a phonetic reworking of written English, and this called for a new alphabet.

To that end, Shaw placed in his will provisions instructing his executor to organize a world-wide competition to design an improved English alphabet. A British designer, Ronald Kingsley Read, who had corresponded extensively with Shaw for several years regarding just such an alphabet, was selected along with three other finalists as the winners of the competition. Read was chosen to design the final form of the alphabet. The "Shaw Alphabet" or "Shavian," as it is now generally known, was the result.

To provide field testing of the new alphabet, Read organized a lengthy public testing phase of Shavian by some 500 users from around the world who spoke different dialects of English. Once he had analyzed the results of those tests, Read decided to revise Shavian to incorporate a number of changes to improve the alphabet and make it both easier and faster to write. He called the revised alphabet "Quikscript". In 1966 he published the Quikscript manual which set out the alphabet's rationale, and briefly discussed different possible methods of alphabet reform. The heart of the manual provided comprehensive instructions regarding the use of the alphabet along with reading samples. The manual is sufficient by itself to teach a neophyte how to read and write in Quikscript.


Each Quikscript letter represent one, and only one, English phoneme. There are 25 consonants and 15 vowels, totaling in all 40 letters. The letters are also designed to be written easily and each of them only requires a single (usually curved) stroke of pen.

  • Just as in the Roman alphabet, there are short letters, e.g. a, c, e, m, and n, written between the base writing line and the "upper parallel" (as Read calls it), tall letters, e.g. b, d, f, k, and t, which ascend above the top of the short letters, and deep letters, e.g. g, j, and y, which descend below the base writing line. Quikscript, however, makes better use of these possibilities by using 11 tall, 11 deep, and 18 short letters. All vowels are short letters, just as they are in the Roman alphabet.
  • The most common phonemes have the simplest letter shapes.
  • Similar sounding phonemes have similar letter shapes. Examples:
    • Long vowels and glides are written with a larger bend or loop, while short vowels have a simpler shape.
    • Every voiced consonant is written with a deep letter similar in shape to the corresponding voiceless consonant which in turn is written with a tall letter.

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