To write or not to write the Russian letter «Ё»?

Russian letter Ё
Russian letter Ё

To write or not to write the Russian letter «Ё»? This is the question.

If you just started to learn Russian language, may be you have already mentioned that sometimes, even very often we don't write two dots above this letter and use the letter "е" instead of "ё". Do you know why? 

To write or not to write this strange Russian letter seems to be a  real war. This topic is  discussed   by many people from linguists to politicians and actors.

Frankly speaking  I do not write the letter Ё and it is not good for me. When I am writing on the blackboard words like еж and елка my students are staring at me without understanding why the words that I pronounce differ from the words on the blackboard. ( it should be ёж and ёлка) 

Moreover, I think that most part of Russian people do not write that same letter  as well, except for those who have it in their  surnames or family names.


Where the Russian letter Ё comes from?


The main advantage of this letter  is that  we know it’s «date of birth» -  the 29th of November in 1783. 

This («the birth») happened in the house of the Princess Yekaterina Romanovna Vorontsova-Dashkova who was the head of department  of St.Petersburg Science Academy. On this day in her house the reunion of philologists  took place.  At the end of the meeting Dashkova wrote the word  «ioлка» and asked her colleagues: « Is it correctly to write one sound with the help of two letters?  May be we need new letter that can describe these two sounds?» 
The arguments of Dashkova were satisfactory and her offer  was approved. 

However,  the new Russian letter ё was published for the first time only in 1795. And we even know the first book which was published with this letter - this is the book with poems by Ivan Dmitriev «Мои безделки»

The first published word with this letter was  Russian word «всё» ( which means «everything») 

Russian alphabet


How the letter Ё came to the Russian alphabet? 

1) The first person who added this letter to the Russian alphabet was Dal who in 1860 placed Ё near the letter Е   in his dictionary ( «Толковый  словарь живого великорусского языка»)

2) In 1875 Leo Tolstoy in his «New ABC»  («Новая азубка»)  put the new letter to the 31st place, between letters Я and Э

3) Nowadays the Russian letter Ё is the seventh letter of the Russian and Belarusian alphabets ( the 9th in the Ukrainian alphabet)  This happened  during the Soviet times on 24 of December in 1942.


What is the problem of Ё letter?

The problem of this  Russian letter is that  to write or type this letter is comfortless, difficult, complex and tricky! Difficult to write in cursive - you should raise your hand to put two dots ( usually cursive words are written even without any dashes) 
Speaking about typing - this letter is inconveniently  located on the keyboard.  
As a consequence  you know the rule : what is difficult or uncomfortable in the language - it disappears in length of time. 

But nowadays there are a lot of people so called « Ёфикаторы»  (a kind of JO-ficators)  who are struggling for this letter. They think that if this letter is presented in Russian alphabet we must not ignore it.  Writing words without letter Ё they considered to be a mistake.  That’s why some people think that  if you do not use this letter where it should be used - it’s a mistake. 

Do you need to write the Russian letter Ё or not?  Is it a mistake or not? 

Remember!   According to the rules of Complete Academic book of reference « The rules of Russian spelling and punctuation»  approved  by  RAN ( Russian Academy of Science)  the use of the letter Ё  is OPTIONAL  (not obligatory)

In this reference book  you can find the information that the use  of Ё is  recommended in these situations: 

  • to prevent incorrect understanding of similar words ( like небо- нёбо, все- всё, совершенный - совершённый etc) 
  • to define the stress of the word if it is necessary (узнаём - узна́ем)
  • to define the correct way of pronunciation  (сёрфинг, флёр, твёрже, унесённый, осуждённый, новорождённый, 

The use of the letter Ё is OBLIGATORY in the following situations: 

  • In the titles  of reference books, dictionaries and encyclopedias
  • In the books for pre-school children 
  • In the textbooks where Russian is studied as a foreign language 
  • In the proper names and surnames 

In all other situations the use of the letter Ё in Russian language is optional

Link to the rule

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