Cryptograms were originally used in warfare to keep the enemy from learning plans if a courier was captured. In those days when the practice was immensely popular, war commands didn’t hesitate to use in safeguarding their secrets. Since it takes a little time and ingenuity to solve these enigmatic puzzles, this form of encryption was very effective for each side, to a certain extent. As the method became increasingly popular, the possibility that someone could break the code increased significantly. And it did happen, more often than not, that one army or the other camp had someone in their rank that understood the system and could successfully decrypt any encrypted message.

Many people think that cryptograms are too difficult to solve, but many have equally never tried to solve them. They can be quite challenging, for sure, but they are not nearly as difficult as they seem, if you know a few little tricks. Solving them mostly involves applying a little logic and knowing the common patterns of word structure, along with some allowance for trial and error. It only takes a little time and persistence if you know what to do.

First of all, knowing where to start is the key to solving cryptograms, and this will vary from puzzle to puzzle. There are a few things, however, that are common to them all, and if you know about them, it will make things easier. Here are some valuable hacks for solving cryptograms.

Look for single-letter words. The only two single-letter words in the English language are “I” and “a,” so that simplifies things somewhat. Unless it is capitalized, you can assume that letter is “a,”

and you are off to a good start.

If you are fortunate enough to have “a” as your starting point, change all the same letters to “a.” If a single letter word in the middle of a sentence is capitalized, you can be reasonably sure it is” I”. Then you can eliminate all the letters that correspond to “I’

Next, you will want to look at all the small words. Two letter words could be “on,” “in”, ”at, “to,” “of” et cetera. Three letter words could be “the,” “and,” “but,” “two,” “too”, “can”, and so on. It’s mostly trial and error here, but you’ll have a starting place, and simple grammar will be a big help for you. Just keep trying different words until it all fits and starts to make sense. The placement of the words can also be a big clue. Some two and three-letter words are rarely used at the beginning or end of a sentence. For instance, you probably wouldn’t see “or” at the beginning of a sentence, nor would you see “the” at the end of a sentence. Sometimes you will be lucky enough to have a group of letters that has to be “that” or “else,” or “ever.” Look closely for patterns such as these in the words of the puzzle.

Another thing to look for is a double-letter pattern within a word. Only a few letters appear as doubles in words, so you can try them and see how they fit. The most commonly doubled letters are “e”, “l, “t”, r”, “s”, “o”, “m”, “n”, and “p”.

Keep in mind that the most commonly used letters in the English language are “r”, “s”, “t”, “l”, “n”, and “e”.

If a letter appears more than any other in the puzzle does, it is most likely “e” or “t,” followed closely by the others. Spelling patterns will give you a guideline here, as well.

Once you get started and succeed in solving a few cryptograms; you would have eliminated letters in other words. A little knowledge of spelling rules and sentence structure will help you solve the rest. Before long, you will be able to fill in the blanks. It won’t be too long until you have solved completely, and maybe you’ll decide to start another.



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Steve Hiles

I am a retired military and elementary school teacher living in Tennessee. I am an avid reader and love to write. I am very passionate about helping teachers. I hope you find my educational tips and strategies useful and enjoy hearing about my personal journey. Thanks for visiting!

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