"Constrained writing" is an umbrella term for odd things like writing without the letter "e," but the phrase is useful to describe writing under any constraint. Tweets, sonnets, limericks, and term papers and journalistic assignments with page or word-number limits are all forms of constrained writing.
An early-developed form of constrained writing is entirely omitting the name of the Most High lest one accidentally use it in vain and contravene the commandment, causing the wrath of the Most High to blaze up and cook one's goose. (Similar reasoning supports the observant practice of keeping two sets of dishes.)
Some forms of constrained writing can be fun, like trying to eliminate all passive-voice constructions. The hardest part of that exercise is specifying a by-agent when the by-agent is unknown. For example, "All of Gaul is divided into three parts."
Our favorite device in those situations is to use the phrase "the lads" as the universal by-agent. "The lads divided all of Gaul into three parts."
Another fun form of constrained writing is monosyllables, also called "short words." Here's an example:
"The goal of short words is to make what you set down clear to all who read it. Long words are bad, since lots of those who read what you write don't know them and won't pick up what you mean."
Translating polysyllabic writing into short words can be hard. Take the following paragraph, repeated from above:
"Our favorite device in those situations is to use the phrase 'the lads' as the universal by-agent. 'The lads divided all of Gaul into three parts.'"
Possible translation into short words:
"What we like to do when that comes up is to use the phrase 'the lads' to mean those by whom the thing is done. 'The lads carved Gaul in to three parts.'"
A short words regime does better with a few exceptions, such as the following:
∙ Polysyllables of five letters or fewer count as short words (after, any, away, into, neon, itchy); and
∙ Proper names count as short words (Babylonia, United Airlines, Tree Fanatic, Karen Swartz).
A good place for a short words constraint is consumer contracts. It would be hard for a consumer to complain that a consumer contract written in monosyllables is not in "plain language."
Yet it could be so:
∙ You must at all times live up to each duty you took on when you signed this deal.
∙ If you ever do not live up to each duty you took on when you wrote your name on this deal, you will be deemed "out of the barn."
∙ If you are out of the barn, we can try to get from you what you owe us.
∙ If we try to get from you what you owe us, we can take any thing you own in whole or part that the law lets us take, like house, land, cash in banks, stocks, bonds, any wage or other sum you earn for work you do, and debts other folks owe to you in cash or kind, even if it's one-malt we ski.
∙ If we try to get from you what you owe us, we may add the costs of the things we try to the debt you owe us. We may also add what we have to pay law lads to do the job, as long as the sums we must pay the law lads are not over the top.
∙ By the way, when we say "lads," we also mean a lass or two or more, and the whole range of ells, bees, gees, and tees. We treat all the same way and pay no mind to things that are not a hill of beans in the first place.
∙ We may charge you a rate to be late and add it to the debt you owe us. Not to worry, though -- the rate to be late won't be more than _____ per cent per year. So that's good, too.
In sum, constrained writing can be any of more than fifty ways of tying yourself up. At bottom, it's just another form of discipline.