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There are varying systems of writing down the sounds of spoken English on the page (transcribing speech) in use. Many use the symbols of the IPA, not always consistently with each other.

The system used in AWE is not always consistent with itself (see Emerson's consistency). The inconsistencies reveal themselves in the vowels. The system is still evolving: for a partial explanation, see transcribing English vowels. There is no theoretical rigour underpinning AWE's system: it has evolved from different teaching in different places at different times, and is merely a pragmatic use of what seems to have worked best. Some of the inconsistency is due to the different systems used in some of our sources.

There is an account of some of the details of phonetic description at Manner of articulation, and place of articulation.

AWE's transcriptions are all of speech within the parameters of Received Pronunciation (RP), except where it is specifically stated that we are trying to indicate a specific accent, or family of accents. The symbols for the consonants are broadly uncontroversial.

For convenience, and to keep closely to AWE's principle of making our entries as short as possible, our entries on the IPA in AWE are divided into