Orthography is a humanities discipline concerned with the study of writing systems. Most languages on Earth have at least one orthography, a writing system widely used to represent the language, and some languages are written with more than one writing system, creating several orthographies for people to choose from when communicating in these languages. In addition to studying modern languages, orthographers also look at historic languages and writing systems.
The word “orthography” comes from Greek roots meaning “correct writing.” Many people specifically identify orthography as the study of spelling, although this is a bit inaccurate. Orthographers do study spelling and are especially interested in the commonly accepted spellings used in a language's writing system, but they also study much more than spelling. Spelling is only one aspect of orthography, and it was not very standardized for much of history; even now, there are a number of variations on words which many people think are spelled in only one way.
One aspect of orthography is punctuation, the examination of markings used on the page to add more depth to the text. Punctuation provides information about how a text should be read and interpreted, and can also provide critical insight into meaning. Orthographers are also interested in topics like capitalization and other norms of writing, including natural variations seen in various communities of language speakers.
The study of orthography can be applied in a number of ways. Orthographers can be a valuable part of the teams which put together dictionary entries, researching words to learn more about variant spellings, including historic spellings which are not widely accepted anymore. They also work on books about the history of language and word use, and on guides to language use, including style guides which provide people with information about punctuation, spelling, and other norms of the language.
Orthography is also used in the study of ancient languages. Orthographers are involved in the task of puzzling out ancient scripts, identifying variations in ancient languages, and attempting to trace the history of writing and the ways in which writing systems are adopted and adapted. Another topic of interest is writing systems which are used in several languages, such as the Roman alphabet, and the ways in which these writing systems are adapted and changed to meet the needs of entirely different languages. Things like accent marks and additional letters, for example, may be added for the convenience of speakers of a different language.