# How do I choose between letter possibilities for 2- and 3-letter words in a cryptogram?

I've tried to begin solving a cryptogram by making educated guesses from the context: position of punctuation, the presence of single-letter words, or assumptions about the frequency of the letter E, for a few examples. I often find 2-letter and 3-letter words in the puzzle and am looking for a more logical approach to such words than just blind guessing. Any ideas?

• What's the cryptogram you're trying to solve?
– user20
May 17, 2014 at 5:24
• @Emracool None in particular. This is a strategy question. May 18, 2014 at 0:42

I would suggest compiling a list from this:

This is a list of the 1000 most common words in the English language.

I have no use for such a list and will, therefore, not make it for you... sorry but I'm selfish.

I would suggest that you note the following: of the first 100 most common words, 5 are two letter words that end in "o" (do to go so no). It may be worth focusing on that possibility first. "e" of course is the most common overall, so should be easier to find. "be" and "he" are somewhat common. Look for "xyz" and "yz" both appearing in longer cryptograms as that can commonly be "the" and "he" respectively. Once these are found, "she", "it", and "on" are easy. You will never see "ne" so that can help differentiate "one" from "the".

Finally, one of the first things to do is look for "xy" and "yx" as these will quickly help find on and no with a relatively high degree of certainty that can easily be checked. "ot" "eb" "eh" and "sa" are fairly uncommon!

http://www.scrabblefinder.com/two-letter-scrabble-words/

http://www.scrabblefinder.com/3-letter-words/

Not a perfect solution, but there are only 101 official 2 letter words and 1015 3 letter words, so with one letter, or letter repetition, or even context it can be quite trivial to lower the possibilities to a small group.

Even in those 101 2-letter words and 1015 3-letter words, most of them are obscure or rarely used, so for most quotes you can eliminate all that just are too esoteric or abstruse for that quote.

• OK, but is there a link to a list of 2- and 3-letter words actually in the English language? A cryptogram is not the same as Scrabble, you know. May 18, 2014 at 19:46
• Those are all in the English language. Maybe not common language, but those are all "possibilities" no matter how rare they may occur. May 18, 2014 at 19:48
• There are such pages. Although this one is a little incomplete, it does limit the list to the most frequently used words. May 18, 2014 at 20:34
• I'd rather have a resource that gives me, although somewhat limited, a prioritized list of the most common words, than to be overwhelmed by an exhaustive list in alphabetical order. An exhaustive list would be great, if it were arranged according to frequency of use. May 18, 2014 at 20:45