You can easily adapt the spelled pronunciation notation used by dictionary.com so that you can use something very like it in handwritten or plain text notes … or anywhere else where it would be awkward to represent bold or italic font. Spelled pronunciation lacks the precision of IPA, but hey. (For instance, IPA for uh-oh is /ˈʌʔoʊ/ – precisely. Ouch!)
The adapted system is described below, with examples for everything in it.
The letters c, q and x are not used, except for a single case: the letter c, paired with the letter h, represents the ch sound, as in church [church].
The letter y – not used at all as a vowel – and the remaining individual consonant letters stand for their usual sounds in English and for only one sound per letter … except for the additional contributions of eight of them to the sounds of the special letter combinations set in bold on this page.
The special letter combinations ey ee ahy oh yoo stand only for the sounds made when reciting the letters a e i o u. But these five letters themselves stand for only the short vowel sounds in pat pet pit pot putt.
(Back to the example at the end of the opening paragraph at the top of the page, using spelled pronunciation this time instead of IPA: there is a short vowel sound followed by a long one in uh-oh [U-oh] – with capping to indicate a stressed syllable.)
The combinations ah ahr ur awr oi ou uu stand for only the vowel sounds in pa barn bird born boy now put [pah bahrn burd bawrn boi nou puut].
The set of all special letter combinations is completed with the nine below. These are needed to spell out how all of the text in the paragraph that follows them could sound. The spelled pronunciation version of that text includes examples of how stressed syllables and periods are marked.
dh uh ng air aw hw eer zh er
That wraps the whole thing up. There’s not much more to say about this notation for spelled pronunciation for now, while I still have your eyes and ears. Please let me know if you see anything unusual that could be a game-changer. Thanks. (It’s not audio, but hey.)
[dhat raps dhuh hohl thing up . dhairz not much mawr tuh sey uh-BOUT dhis noh-TEY-shuhn fawr speld pruh-NUN-see-’EY-shuhn fawr nou, hwahyl ahy stil hav yawr ahyz uhnd eerz . pleez let mee noh if yoo see EN-ee-thing un-YOO-zhoo-uhl dhat kuud bee uh ’GEYM-CHEYN-jer . thangks . (its not AW-dee-oh, but hey .)]
The letter combination kh stands for the ch sound in loch.*
Parentheses mark a sound as muted, softened or shortened. While the Scots refer to a lake in Scotland as a loch [lokh], others may soften the word to [lo(kh)].
*As it does in the BBC phonetic respelling pronunciation guide.
If you take a look at the description of the phonetic respelling system the BBC Pronunciation Unit uses, you may notice some differences from the system described above: ay instead of ey for the long vowel in pronunciation, for instance, and no distinction made between primary and secondary stress. Note also the helpful point on the way respelled words are broken into syllables:
The way the words are broken into syllables in the respelling is not an attempt to reflect actual syllabification in a given language. Instead, it is a tool to reinforce vowel pronunciations and to ensure the most intuitive transcription. When a vowel is long, the following consonant will be placed after the hyphen, as in PEE-tuhr for Peter. When a vowel is short, the consonant goes immediately after the vowel, before the hyphen, as in JEN-i for Jenny.