Shuffle letters in words

You might have heard that to be able to read a word it doesn't matter in which order the letters are written as long as the first and last letters are placed correctly.

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

The above quote is an example of a text that has been widely spread on the Internet. The text is relatively easy to read for most people despite the letters being in the wrong order. This might seem like an extraordinary discovery, but is it really true?

Note that the restriction to let the first and last letters stay in their original positions means that all words that are one, two or three letters long will remain unchanged. Four-letter words also doesn't change much because only the two middle letters can switch positions.

A closer study of the text reveals that almost half of the words are unchanged, and that 61 % of all letters stayed in their original position. It should also be noted that the two words rscheearch (researcher) and iprmoetnt (important) has been misspelled. If this is intentional or not is hard to say but it seems likely that the shuffling is not totally random but instead has been chosen so make it look scrambled while still being readable. Use the tool on this page if you want to see for yourself what a random shuffling of the text looks like.

The claim has some merit, but there is much more than the first and last letters that decide if a word can be read without problem. As we have seen, many words are so short that they doesn't change at all, and as we all know, short correctly-spelled words are generally easy to read. Words with just a few shuffled letters can often be read without problems but might slow the reader down somewhat.

Longer words are more difficult to read, and very long combined words can take considerably effort to figure out. This is less of a problem in English because it generally doesn't combine words on the fly, like many other Germanic languages do, but there are still some long words in English that causes problems. Take for example the shuffled word "ibeechrosnmlpnie". It is almost impossible to see that it means "incomprehensible". If the word is part of a sentence it can often be easier to guess because we know from the context what to expect.

The tool should mainly be used for fun. Avoid long words if you want people to be able to read the text. On the other hand, if you want to create puzzling texts that take a long time to figure out you should consider also shuffling the first and last letters in each word.