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Are "ss" and "ß" interchangeable?

I know that I have seen words spelled with both "ss" (like "essen") and "ß" (like "heiße"). But would it be proper to do it the other way, as in spell "essen" as "eßen" and "heiße" as "heisse"? What about when spelling names?

February 8, 2012



Germans take den "Duden" as the bible of orthography. The German orthography has been reformed in 1996 and it impacted some words with "ß" and "ss". In order to know if a word is spelled with the one or the other, you can either look it up in the online Duden version: http://www.duden.de/. You can also follow the rule of thumb that "ss" is the so-called sharp & quick s-sound as in "der Fluss", "der Kuss" or "was muss, das muss" whereas "ß" is the so-called soft s-sound as in "der Fuß" and "fließen". To answer your question: some forms of "essen" are spelled with "ss" such as "essen" itself or "du isst" whereas "du aßest" is not. For "heißen", all conjugated forms are written with a "ß". Names are proper names, such as the first name "Lasse", and the Duden has no say here.


Or you could only use "ss" and pretend to be Swiss. Although this adds some ambiguity, like "Busse" which could be the plural of "Bus" or "Buße".

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