Alternative Writing Systems

There are those for whom writing is an art rather than a necessity.  They find serenity in the calm orderliness of beautiful lettering, a peaceful satisfaction in the elegant sweep of a Copperplate capital.  Along with this comes an appreciation of diverse forms of writing — the tranquil brushstrokes of traditional Chinese calligraphy, or the imaginative appeal of a fantasy inscription.  As with fonts, each different form of writing carries its own mood and flavor, and suggests its own cultural and historical context, whether real or imagined.

Most people give very little thought to writing systems.  We learn one — the Latin Alphabet, for English speakers — and that suffices for all of our everyday needs.  Yet a single language need not be constrained to just one writing system.  Braille and Morse Code, for instance, are two familiar examples of alternative ways of representing our alphabet.

J.R.R. Tolkien was very fond of languages.  He created the Tengwar writing system to represent his Elvish languages.  It is also possible to use Tengwar to write English, should you be so inclined.  And why not, indeed?  Would you like to be able to write in a style that looks Elvish, yet in reality is perfectly understandable English?  This, of course, leads us to the broader question:

Why would you want to use an alternative writing system?

  1. Well, first, and most importantly... Because it's fun!  And it makes everything you write look really awesome!
  2. To keep your notes and journal private
  3. Secret correspondence with a special confidant
  4. Artistic projects featuring inscriptions from other civilizations
  5. Creative writing involving fantasy cultures
  6. Role-playing games!
  7. Anything else your imagination can dream of!

The beauty of using one of these systems is that it allows you to create “foreign-looking” text without having to learn a foreign language.  It's not easy to become fluent in a foreign language.  Trust me, if you're keeping a journal, you do not want to have to take the time to first translate your thoughts into another language before you can write them down!

Here, then, are four writing systems that may be used to represent Engligh:

A derivative of Tengwar and the Latin alphabet, designed for cursive handwriting and use with the English language.
An original phonetic script for English, in which similar phonemes are represented by visually similar graphemes.
A set of Elder Futhark, Anglo Saxon, and other runes, tailored for English with a limited number of phonological changes.
Modeled after the Ayeri Ornament Script by Carston Becker, modified and adapted for English.

Click on the name of the script above to learn more about each, or check out this Quick Reference Chart to get an overview of all four.  To see a comparative text sample in all four systems, take a look at this Rosetta Poem.

How can a young man keep his way pure?
by living according to Your word.
I seek You with all my heart;
do not let me stray from Your commands.
I have hidden Your word in my heart
that I might not sin against You.
Praise be to You, O Lord;
teach me Your decrees.
— Psalm 119:9-12