In English why can’t I write “sutle” instead of “subtle” when the latter only adds complexity?

It may look like simplifying spelling would improve the language, however, simplified spelling is often more difficult to read. Since people read more than write, the language should be optimised with a balance towards ease of reading rather than ease of writing. Consider the following example:

For example, in Year 1 that useless letter “c” would be dropped to be replased either by “k” or “s”, and likewise “x” would no longer be part of the alphabet. The only kase in which “c” would be retained would be the “ch” formation, which will be dealt with later. Year 2 might reform “w” spelling, so that “which” and “one” would take the same konsonant, wile Year 3 might well abolish “y” replasing it with “i” and iear 4 might fiks the “g/j” anomali wonse and for all. Jenerally, then, the improvement would kontinue iear bai iear with iear 5 doing awai with useless double konsonants, and iears 6-12 or so modifaiing vowlz and the rimeining voist and unvoist konsonants. Bai iear 15 or sou, it wud fainali bi posibl tu meik ius ov thi ridandant letez “c”, “y” and “x” — bai now jast a memori in the maindz ov ould doderez — tu riplais “ch”, “sh”, and “th” rispektivli. Fainali, xen, aafte sam 20 iers ov orxogrefkl riform, wi wud hev a lojikl, kohirnt speling in ius xrewawt xe Ingliy-spiking werld.

Above passage: author unknown, possibly Mark Twain or M.J. Yilz or not. There were forms of writing created for English that were optimised entirely for the writer,┬ánot the reader. These were commonly taught in schools and used in every English speaking business around the world. These simplified forms of writing were used in places where writing speed was paramount, such as a secretary writing a letter dictated by a manager or a journalist taking notes for his newspaper. However, these simplified forms have fallen out of use with the advent of word processors and computers. I am, of course, referring to “Shorthand”

Extract from Matthew from a Bible written in shorthand

Above: This bible might look like it is in Hebrew or some other ancient text but actually this is English shorthand. This is an extract from The Gospel of Matthew from a Bible written in shorthand.

And extract from a Christmas card written in Pitman's shorthand

And extract from a Christmas card written in Pitman’s shorthand.

A Christmas card message written in Pitman shorthand on the left with longhand transliteration on the right. Above: Pitman shorthand with the English longhand transcription beside.


Though shorthand was ubiquitous in businesses and schools worldwide, it was generally only readable by the author as so many ambiguities lie in the word sounds. Thus shorthand was always transcribed, and usually typed, in longhand after the dictation writing was finished. That is why “subtle” will continue to have a “b” in the middle and why other English words are equally, or even more bizarrely, spelled.

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