Constrained writing

Constrained writing is a literary technique in which the writer is bound by some condition that forbids certain things or imposes a pattern.[1]


Constraints are very common in poetry, which often requires the writer to use a particular verse form.

The most common constrained forms of writing are strict restrictions in vocabulary, e.g. Basic English, copula-free text, defining vocabulary for dictionaries, and other limited vocabularies for teaching English as a Second Language or to children. This is not generally what is meant by “constrained writing” in the literary sense, which is motivated by more aesthetic concerns. For example:

The Oulipo group is a gathering of writers who use such techniques. The Outrapo group uses theatrical constraints.[3]

There are a number of constrained writing forms that are restricted by length, including:


Perec subsequently joked that he incorporated the "e"s not used in La Disparition in the novella Les Revenentes (1972), which uses no vowels other than "e". Les Revenentes was translated into English by Ian Monk as The Exeter Text: Jewels, Secrets, Sex.

See also


  1. Andrews, Dale (2013-02-26). "Constrained Writing". Washington: SleuthSayers.
  2. Bilingual Homophonous Poetry - Italo-Hebraic Bilingual Homophonous Poem by linguist Ghil'ad Zuckermann, in which the Hebrew poem sounds identical to the Italian one, both making full sense - see Zuckermann, Ghil'ad (2006), "Shir Du-Leshoni" (Bilingual Poem), Ho!, Literary Magazine 3, pp. 256-257.
  3. Lundin, Leigh (2009-06-07). "L'Oulipo". Constrained Writing. Orlando: Criminal Brief. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  4. A New Novel, No Verbs, in France, No Less by Scott McLemee, The Chronicle of Higher Education, June 2, 2004.
  5. Urban Legends Reference Pages: Language (Green Eggs and Ham), Snopes, Accessed on 26 November 2006.
  6. Gorm, son of Hardecnut by Peter Vorobieff, Accessed on 16 April 2013.

External links

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