If you consider a 26 letter alphabet, and a cipher where 24 of the letters are sent to themselves, and only 2 letters switch, how many different substitution alphabet ciphers are there, and what percentage are they of total possible?

I thought it would be there are $26\cdot25=650$ such possible ciphers, for a percentage of $$\frac{26\cdot25}{26!}\cdot100\approx1.61\cdot10^{-22}\%$$

But it seems there are only $325$ possible ciphers, when switching only two letters, and i dont understand why?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Hint: Try that calculation with a 2 letter alphabet where 0 of the letters are sent to themselves. $\hspace{.79 in}$ $\endgroup$
    – user991
    Jun 2, 2014 at 23:38
  • $\begingroup$ If $\Sigma=\{a,b\}$ then wouldnt you have only one possible cipher combination? I feel like something should have clicked from that, but it didnt nor as i try to think of smaller cases now... $\endgroup$ Jun 3, 2014 at 1:13

1 Answer 1


Iterate through the alphabet (using a smaller alphabet is always a good way to start). So you take letter A and you can combine it with letter B..Z. Now if you take B, then you can combine it with letter A and C..Z. But the combination (A,B) is equivalent to (B,A). So you only have C..Z to consider. Thus you would get (n - 1) + (n - 2) + ... pairs, leaving you with 26 * (25 / 2) = 325 combinations.


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