With its seat being in Mannheim, Germany, the RdR was formed in 2004 as a successor to the Zwischenstaatliche Kommission für deutsche Rechtschreibung ("Intergovernmental Commission for German Orthography") in order to comprise proponents as well as opponents to the German orthography reform of 1996 (and subsequent reforms).
- Germany: 18 councillors
- Austria: 9 councillors
- Switzerland: 9 councillors
- South Tyrol (Italy): 1 councillor
- German-speaking Community of Belgium: 1 councillor
- Liechtenstein: 1 councillor
- Luxembourg: 1 observer (no voting right)
Despite having German as one of its official languages, Luxembourg, which was not involved in devising the reform of 1996, is not a full member of the council. The government of Luxembourg unilaterally adopted the reform, and its efficiency makes it well-accepted by the country's teachers.
According to the duchy's largest newspaper, the Luxemburger Wort, Luxembourg does not perceive itself as a "German-speaking country" (the only national language is Luxembourgish) and thus had no right to take part in the council.
The chairman of the Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache (GfdS) is a member of the council. In 2003, the RdR, the GfdS, the Goethe Institute and the Institute of the German Language, founded the German Language Council (Deutscher Sprachrat), which was later also joined by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).