The German Spelling Reform



(Lovik, Guy, Chavez, Houghton Mifflin, 1997)

A special commission of German educators and linguists adopted a special spelling reform for the German language that went into effect on August 1, 1998. This spelling reform is an attempt to simplify German spelling by making it more uniform and predictable. Despite considerable opposition from some publishers, writers and others, including several court challenges, the spelling reform is currently in the transitional stage. Until July 31, 2005, teachers, publishers and other official publications are allowed to use either the old or the new spelling rules. Beginning on August 1, 2005 only the new spelling rules will be allowed in Germany.

Students in beginning German using Vorsprung should not encounter many problems adapting to the new spelling rules. The spelling reform generally describes three areas of written German -- spelling rules, capitalization and punctuation.


  1. Spelling


1. The ß (called the Esszet) and standing for "ss" will only occur after long vowel and diphtongs.

Old Spelling New Spelling No change

daß dass Straße ("a" is long)

muß muss Fuß ("u" is long)

wußte wusste weiß ("ei" is a diphthong)


2. Words of foreign origin will be allowed to retain the foreign spelling or adopt the German spelling.


ph > f

Photograph Photograph or Fotograf

Geographie Geographie or Geografie

Phantastisch Fantastisch


gh > g

Joghurt Joghurt or Jogurt


th > t

Thunfisch Thunfisch or Tunfisch


  1. Verbs with separable prefixes that are nouns or verbs will be written separately.
  2. Old Spelling New Spelling

    kennenlernen kennen lernen, kennen gelernt

    spazierengehen spazieren gehen, spazieren gegangen

    radfahren Rad fahren, Rad gefahren


  3. Certain words will be spelled according to their root word.
  4. Platz platzieren

    Nummer nummerieren

    Zigarre Zigarrette


  5. A few words will drop a silent 'h' to conform to other words.
  6. Old Spelling New Spelling

    rauh rau (like grau, blau, etc.)

    Känguruh Känguru (like Gnu, Kakadu, etc.)


  7. In compound words when the first word ends with two consonants or two vowels identical to the consonant or vowel at the beginning of the second word will, all three letters will be retained. This may result in some odd looking words.

Tee + Ei >> Teeei

Schiff + Fahrt >> Schifffahrt


  1. Capitalization


  1. Nouns that are also time phrases or other idiomatic expressions will be capitalized.
  2. Old Spelling New Spelling

    heute abend heute Abend

    auf deutsch auf Deutsch

    leid tun Leid tun


  3. The following second person pronouns (du, dein, ihr, euer) will no longer be capitalized in letters.
  4. Liebe Anna,

    Ich habe deine Karte aus Italien bekommen. Wo habt ihr übernachtet? Besuchst du uns?


    III. Punctuation


    1. A comma will no longer be used to separate clauses conjoined with und or oder.

    Wir fahren gleich in die Stadt und ich bringe dich zum Bahnhof.


  5. Infinitive phrases with zu will no longer be required to have a comma unless it helps with clarity.

Constructions with um zu or ohne zu may or may not be set off with a comma.

Wir sind froh, ihn zu sehen.