etaoin shrdlu

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The sequence in The New York Times (October 30, 1903).
A Linotype machine keyboard. It has the following alphabet arrangement twice, once for lower case (the black keys) and once for upper case (the white keys), with the keys in the middle for numbers and symbols: etaoin / shrdlu / cmfwyp / vbgkqj / xz

etaoin shrdlu (/ˈɛtˌɔɪnˈʃrədl/[1]) is a nonsense phrase that sometimes appeared in print in the days of "hot type" publishing because of a custom of type-casting machine operators. It appeared frequently enough that it became part of the lore of newspapers.

It is the approximate order of frequency of 12 of the most commonly used letters in the English language.[2]



The letters on type-casting machine keyboards were arranged by letter frequency, so e-t-a-o-i-n s-h-r-d-l-u were the lower-case keys in the first two vertical columns on the left side of the keyboard. When an operator made a mistake in his composing, he would often finish the line by running his finger down the first two rows of the keyboard, and then start over. Occasionally the faulty line of hot-metal type would be overlooked and be printed erroneously. This happened often enough for "etaoin shrdlu" to be listed in the Oxford English Dictionary and in the Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.

A documentary about the last issue of The New York Times to be composed in the hot-metal printing process (2 July 1978) was titled Farewell, Etaoin Shrdlu.[3]

Appearance outside typography[edit]

The phrase has gained enough notability to appear outside typography, including:



Other arts[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Etaoin Shrdlu". 2011. Retrieved 12 Sept 2011 
  2. ^ "Fun With Words, Letter Frequencies". Retrieved 4 May 2013. 
  3. ^ EMC: Abstract: Farewell Etaoin Shrdlu
  4. ^ Garth Courtois Jr wikispaces profile
  5. ^ Piper, H. Beam. Four Day Planet. p. 59. 
  6. ^ Series: Gobfrey Shrdlu, LibraryThing

External links[edit]