The 50,000 Word Book Without the Letter ‘E’ - Gadsby
The 50,000 Word Book Without the Letter ‘E’ - Gadsby

The 50,000 Word Book Without the Letter ‘E’ - Gadsby

'E' is the most common letter in the English language. In fact, in the previous sentence it appeared seven time in just 10 words. That's what made Gadsby, so remarkable; a 50,000 word novel that doesn't use the letter 'E' at all. In this video I explore this type of writing, and take the challenge of putting together a (hopefully) coherent video with the same limitation. Spoiler: It's hard.


This short film has an unusual trait in common with Gadsby. A book famous, not for its author, or story or plot, but for what isn't in it.

This book, and my script right now, is a lipogram. A form of writing with constraints. For both of us, a solitary linguistic symbol isn't a part of our work. If it's not obvious, all I'll say is that I can only do my ABCs up to D.

This is a story about writing, constraints, and most importantly, giving a lot of thought into what I say. So watch on and you might just find out a thing.

Various lipograms can occur without too much work. Avoiding Z, X or Q is fairly trivial, but try and skip a symbol such as A, I, O, or U or a common consonant, N, S or T and you'll quickly find it's not a straightforward task. That said, a lot of words do work, including at a maximum: psychopharmacological, which is a study of drugs which impact your mind.

A pangrammatic lipogram is a distinct form of writing. A story or paragraph which contains all but a solitary symbol. Lipograms go back a long way with its first known origins pointing to Lasus of Arigold from around two and a half thousand solar orbits ago. Lasus was a musician and author and known for not thinking much of sigma, similar to our S, and did author a full hymn in his own lingua franca, without using it. Now this writing is lost to history.

Iliad, a famous book, got a lipogram translation. It was in MDCCXI for Roman digit fans with a London journalist writing that words would vanish, thrown out in a similar way to a diamond with a flaw in it.

An author did a biblical lipogram, a scriptual oddity known as Aurora in which an initial part would skip A, part two would skip B, and so on.

Now back to Gadsy, a full 50,000 word book. To bring it to fruition, our author, Wright, had to physically stop his typing apparatus from moving our illicit symbol. Gadsby's story follows John Gadsby, mayor of Branton Hills, who with a youth organisation, works to stop a town from dying.

So is it any good? "Though grabbing and humorous on occasion, "this book is not worth going through "for anything but linguistic admiration. "Not withstanding this, I am taking of my imaginary "hat to this author's cunning handling of words. "I now know how vastly difficult this is."

So Gadsby probably wouldn't stand out without this gimmick. Its inspiring though what Wright did. How you do your work is just as important as what you do. So I say, do cool stuff. Do it in a cool way, and who knows, folks might follow your approach.

Thanks for watching. I'm Julian and that was hard. If you thought that was worth a watch, do pass it on to any word-loving pals you know. Hit a Thumbs Up or Follow button and try your own lipogram. That's it from m—.