The Shavian alphabet is named after George Bernard Shaw and was
devised by Kingsley Read. Shaw saw use of the Latin
alphabet for writing English as a great waste of time, energy and
paper, so in his will he stipulated that a competition should be held
to create a new writing system for English and made provision for a
prize of £500. The competition took place in 1958 and Kingsley
Read's system was chosen as the winner out of the 467 entries.
Shaw's will also stipulated that his play Androcles and the Lion
should be printed in the winning alphabet. Few other texts were printed
and the alphabet, which became known as Shavian, was never seriously
considered as an alternative for writing English.
There are three types of letters - tall, deep and
short. Tall letters are the equivalent of ascenders
in the Latin alphabet (e.g. b, d, f, h), deep letters are the
equivalent of descenders (e.g. p, g, j, y) and short letters
are all the same height, like the letters a, c, e and i.
- Consonant letters come in pairs, with the tall one representing
an unvoiced consonant and the deep one representing a voiced consonant.
The letters for l, r, m and n are the exceptions to this pattern.
- Vowel letters are all, with only one exception, short. Some come
in pairs, others don't.
- There are no capital letters, although a 'namer dot' is used to
mark proper names.
The Shavian alphabet
Sample text in Shavian
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They
are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another
in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
Free Shavian fonts
Information about the Shavian Alphabet
Alternative spelling/writing systems
Benjamin Franklin's Phonetic Alphabet,
Pitman Initial Teaching Alphabet,