Posted by: Jodi | October 20, 2010

Writing Exercise: Without any “E”

Heather over at RapturedHeart has inspired me to try something new and indeed a challenge.  She was inspired by this Plinky prompt:

Write a one hundred word story without using the letter “E.”

Historically this idea isn’t new.  The stories and books that result are called lipograms from the Greek lipogrammos meaning “missing a letter”.

Some examples of works missing an e are Gadsby by Ernest Vincent Wright, a 50,000 word novel published in 1939 and La Disparition published in French in 1969 by George Perec, which was translated into English in 1995 as A Void.

The book Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn in 2001 is a progressive lipogrammatic story where letters are one by one being banned by the city as they fall off of their cherished statue of “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.”  A delightful read, I recommend it.

Here’s my lipogrammatic short:

An arctic wind pulls my hair into tufts as I walk.  I don’t mind, it brings my mind thoughts of him.  Our passion was short and vivid, knowing his ship would sail at dawn into a polar sun.  War took him away that brutal Spring morning and holds him now in its burning grasp.  I will always miss him, long for him, and wait for him. Will I fall into his arms and kiss his lips again? Night is falling, cold nips at my thin hands. I allow cold to numb my soul and carry away my pain.

I know that many of you have tried this as well – please send the link to yours in the comments!

To see Heather’s, click here.



  1. Great little short, very lyrical. I remembered being assigned to read Gadsby in high school English and being blown away by a 200-page book with absolutely no “the” or “he” in it. What great exercise this must be for the brain!

    • It was liberating see just how many ways a thought could be expressed, however it also proves just how important it is to find and use the words that work best in a given setting.

  2. Oh! Thanks for elaborating on this! A 50,000 word novel… now, that’s a bit much for me.

    Can’t wait to see what people come up with.


    • The link takes you to the complete text – it’s amazing to read after trying to write without an E.

  3. […] 20, 2010 by textwanderer The following entry was inspired by tsuchigari’s recent blog post. It is my attempt to write a small paragraph without using the letter […]

  4. Very good short.

  5. These exercises (like the one syllable challenge I posted) cause us to be more conscious of word choice instead of reaching for our favorites off the shelf each time.

    Thanks, Jo.

    • So true – I found myself thinking in circles for an hour after completing this exercise. Now I’m going to have to do the single syllable challenge!

  6. His ship sailed at dawn? Oops.
    What about ‘his ship was to sail at dawn’?

    • Akk! You caught me – looks like this exercise is much more challenging than I thought at first. It’s fixed.

  7. I’d never heard of lipograms. Seems like a very neat exercise to use with a high school English class.

    • For sure! They would get a huge kick out of it.

  8. There’s an e in there! “sailed.” But this is amazing, what a cool exercise! 😉

    • Yep, I’m totally busted. I thought I was really careful when I checked it but it leaked through! This is why writers need to hire editors.

  9. Oh, darn!

    How can you ask this man – a hack, a fraud, a fool – to do such a thing? It is simply not within my brain’s grasp to spit out a string of words that lack this most tiny but critical part. Not if you want to follow my logic, that is.


    Nice work on the vignette, by the way.

    • Fantastic! I dare say you have a poetic soul in there somewhere. I love how different each attempt turns out. Good work.

  10. It is hard to say how to accomplish this. Lipograms try minds, forcing us to think in an unusual way. Common words vanish as particular symbols fall into inusitation. Such a story inhabits book racks but it is too dramatic to copy its motif. I will only go this far but no farther.

    I find it incredible (yes, I’m done now) that anyone could continue without letters for more than a few paragraphs. Especially in French.

    I love how yours turned out!

    • Almost made it, farther has one! Love it, thanks for taking a crack at it – these have been fun for everyone.


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