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My Old German Dictionary And The New Rules Of Writing Correctly

Krokodyl - Fotolia.com
Krokodyl – Fotolia.com

If you have learned German before 1998, you have perhaps noticed many errors in newer German texts. This is neither on account of your memory of the German spelling nor of a lack of education in young people nor even on account of the superficial medium internet. Since 1998, the German spelling has seen several reforms and reforms of the reforms. Therefore it should not surprise you if your German spell check discovers unknown errors in your German text.

By the way: You can often use the old forms as well as the new forms.

Old And New: What Are The Changes In German Spelling?

The spelling reform wanted to unify the different varieties of German in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Belgium, Italy and Luxembourg. Yet the reform didn’t succeed in all points. One reason is that Switzerland never uses the letter ß.

Changes affected mostly words that many people misspelled. There have been simplifications at same-sounding sounds (such as ss – ß, f – ph) and in the use of uppercase first letters.

Problem ss – ß

After a short vowel you now always write -ss. After Long vowels you still write -ß.


Short vowel: dass (daß), Kuss (Kuß), muss (muß)

Long vowel: Straße, Maß, gießen

Problem f – ph

-Ph was used in words stemming from the Old Greek. The new rule makes a difference between words that are well-known and commonly used and words that are rarely used. Commonly used words now have -f instead of -ph.


Common words: Delfin (Delphin), Geograf (Geograph), Fantasie (Phantasie)

The old spelling is recommended for words like Phonem.

Rare words: Phantom, Pharmazie, Physik

Problem Uppercase First Letters

There have been a quite a few changes. Words denoting the times of the day are now treated like nouns and are spelled with an uppercase first letter.


gestern Nacht, heute Morgen, morgen Vormittag

More words are treated like nouns.


Wir haben Folgendes geplant. / Sag es auf Französisch. / ein Spiel für Jung und Alt

Sie war aufs Äußerste erschrocken. / Alles war auf das Beste geregelt.

Die meisten fuhren nach Hause. / der Neid der Vielen

Where Can I Look Up The New Rules?

You will find the rules for the new German spelling online on the site of the Duden-Dictionary. You can also download the rules in PDF-format .

Where Can I Check My German Text?

Duden-online offers a spell check for your text. It’s free for 800 signs.Just copy your German text into the yellow field and click on “Text korrigieren”.

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