A written work that purposely excludes a specific letter is known as a lipogram. Obviously, it’s not an easy thing to accomplish, but what if an author decided to exclude the most common vowel in the English language?
Ernest Vincent Wright did just that when he published Gadsby in 1939.
In writing such a story, —purposely avoiding all words containing the vowel E, there are a great many difficulties. The greatest of these is met in the past tense of verbs, almost all of which end with “—ed.” Therefore substitutes must be found; and they are very few. This will cause, at times, a somewhat monotonous use of such words as “said;” for neither “replied,” “answered” nor “asked” can be used. Another difficulty comes with the elimination of the common couplet “of course,” and its very common connective, “consequently ;” which will’ unavoidably cause “bumpy spots.” The numerals also cause plenty of trouble, for none between six and thirty are available. When introducing young ladies into the story, this is a real barrier; for what young woman wants to have it known that she is over thirty? And this restriction on numbers, of course taboos all mention of dates.
Many abbreviations also must be avoided; the most common of all, “Mr.” and “Mrs.” being particularly troublesome; for those words, if read aloud, plainly indicate the E in their orthography.
As the vowel E is used more than five times oftener than any other letter, this story was written, not through any attempt to attain literary merit, but due to a somewhat balky nature, caused by hearing it so constantly claimed that “it can’t be done; for you cannot say anything at all without using E, and make smooth continuity, with perfectly grammatical construction—” so ‘twas said.
Many may think that I simply “drop” the E’s, filling the gaps with apostrophes. A perusal of the book will show that this is not so. All words used are complete; are correctly spelled and properly used. This has been accomplished through the use of synonyms; and, by so twisting a sentence around as to avoid ambiguity. The book may prove a valuable aid to school children in English composition.
As to the artistic merits of the story, well that’s an article for another day.