Abstract This paper describes an experiment designed to compare the readability of normal English orthography with that of text produced by a Palantype transcription system designed as an aid for the severely and profoundly deaf. The Palantype transcription system has been described in detail in an earlier paper in this Journal. To provide guidance for future development work, two artificially produced enhancements of the transcription system are also compared with the normal transcription system output and with English orthography. The experimental subjects are members of local deaf and hard of hearing clubs. The experiment is based upon the Cloze technique: words are deleted from the original text and subjects are asked to replace these missing words. Standard texts, normally used for measuring reading ability, form the experimental material. The experiment uses a modiffed Latin squares design. Statistical analysis of the results shows that there are significant differences between the different text treatments, and some attempt is made to quantify these differences in terms of measures of reading ability commonly used in the educational field.