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Writing Without E

rold cindy
By Cindy Rold

While I pay for my treatment and schedule my next appointment, my massage therapist, Rob, picks up a sheaf of papers. He hands me three typewritten pages saying they will interest me because I am a writer. Rob tells me they were written in the 1930’s by an author who didn’t use any words containing the letter “e” in that piece of writing. A therapist sitting at the desk next to Rob looks at her computer screen, picks a sentence at random, and says, “There are eight “e’s” just in this sentence.” Rob says the writer tied down the letter “e” on his typewriter as a reminder not to use it. Intrigued, I begin to read the pages Rob gave me. While the writing and construction are a bit stilted in places, it is readable and coherent.

Using the wonders of the Internet (I’m still not so blasé that I take the Internet for granted), I research and learn the author’s name is Ernest Vincent Wright, and he wrote a 50,000 word story,Gadsby, without using the letter “e.” The three pages I have are just an excerpt from his longer work. He writes that he tied down “e” on this typewriter so it wouldn’t “sneak into” his writing. With a computer, a writer would have to be much more vigilant.

I decide to see how easy it is and set out to write a simple paragraph about Wright’s feat, without using the letter “e.”

            An author in the 1930’s. . .

No. I can’t use the word the. Argh. Such a common word.

            In 1930, an author wrote. . . No.

scribed. . . No.

typed. . . No. I need a thesaurus but none is available as I lie in bed.

I’ll try a different sentence instead.

            Three. . . Can’t use that. Maybe I can describe the number.

More than two. . . Nope.

Less than four . . . Still won’t work.

I can almost feel my brain working as it searches for new circuits and new connections. I find the exercise impossible, especially writing on a deadline. It also seems stupid. There are only five vowels. Why deprive myself of using one of them, especially when it’s such a common vowel?  I think it would be easier, but still difficult, not to use the letter “u.”

And yet, something draws me to the experiment. The excerpt I have of Wright’s writing is compelling and shows it can be done. What would be possible if I chose to write an essay or an article without using the letter “e,” even if it was just for me, never to be published? How would that sharpen my writing? It would force me to think of new words, new phrases, new ways to get my ideas across, to communicate. It would stretch my mind and expand my storytelling in unexpected ways.

Perhaps when I am not on deadline and I can enjoy the process, I will challenge myself to write a sentence, a paragraph, even an entire essay, absent the letter “e.”

Until that point, I stop writing now, using only a, i, o, u, and consonants in this closing paragraph.

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