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Last Updated: Friday, 6 August, 2004, 16:12 GMT 17:12 UK
German publishers abandon rules
By Ray Furlong
BBC Berlin correspondent

German reads newspaper
Read it and weep: Spelling won't make the news any better
Germany's two most influential news publishers have issued a joint statement saying that they are going to ignore new German language rules.

The writing rules have been controversial since they were introduced in 1996.

Publishers Axel-Springer and Spiegel-Verlag say they were responding to the fact that the reforms had not been widely accepted and had caused chaos.

Axel-Springer's publications include the best-selling tabloid Bild.

Their decision to go back to the old way of writing German is move is a real body-blow to the German writing reforms.

Authors demands

The reforms were agreed upon by Germany, Austria and Switzerland in 1996, changing, among other things, the rules about where to place a comma in a sentence, and altering the spelling of about 12,000 words.

The aim was to simplify the language, but a joint statement by the two publishers said it had only complicated things, causing linguistic confusion.

People who before did not make spelling or grammar mistakes, now did, it said.

Parents and children observed different rules.

This comes amid growing criticism of the reforms.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany's most venerable newspaper, abandoned them four years ago, and many top authors insist on their work being published according to the old rules.

The new writing rules are due to become compulsory for public officials in August next year, but that may now be cast into doubt.

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