The sustained posterior contralateral negativity (SPCN) was used to investigate the effect of spatial layout on the maintenance of letters in VSTM. SPCN amplitude was measured for words, nonwords, and scrambled nonwords. We reexamined the effects of spatial layout of letters on SPCN amplitude in a design that equated the mean frequency of use of each position. Scrambled letters that did not form words elicited a larger SPCN than either words or nonwords, indicating lower VSTM load for nonwords presented in a typical horizontal array than the load observed for the same letters presented in spatially scrambled locations. In contrast, prior research has shown that the spatial extent of arrays of simple stimuli did not influence the amplitude of the SPCN. Thus, the present results indicate the existence of encoding and VSTM maintenance mechanisms specific to letter and word processing.