Zess is the name of a character in the Initial Teaching Alphabet, a series of about 40 minuscule letters specified by Sir James Pitman, grandson of an inventor of shorthand, to assist children in their learning to read English. Its form is easy to describe: It is a backward "z".

The use of the zess is to replace the letter "s" where it is pronounced "z" in English; most obviously in the word "is". Those plurals of nouns or third-person present forms of verbs in which the letter "s" is voiced are spelled with a zess ("dogs" for both uses); those in which it is unvoiced are still spelled with an "s" ("barks" for both uses). The i.t.a. also has a "z" for use in other places.

The zess is specified only as minuscule in form. For an equivalent of a capital letter, it is made boldface.

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