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?

  • $\begingroup$ What's the cryptogram you're trying to solve? $\endgroup$ – user20 May 17 '14 at 5:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Emracool None in particular. This is a strategy question. $\endgroup$ – Brian J. Fink May 18 '14 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!

| improve this answer | |



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.

| improve this answer | |
  • $\begingroup$ 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. $\endgroup$ – Brian J. Fink May 18 '14 at 19:46
  • $\begingroup$ Those are all in the English language. Maybe not common language, but those are all "possibilities" no matter how rare they may occur. $\endgroup$ – JohnJPershing May 18 '14 at 19:48
  • $\begingroup$ There are such pages. Although this one is a little incomplete, it does limit the list to the most frequently used words. $\endgroup$ – Brian J. Fink May 18 '14 at 20:34
  • $\begingroup$ 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. $\endgroup$ – Brian J. Fink May 18 '14 at 20:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.