How Scrabble Works

Scrabble Tips

A quiet night of Scrabble in 1970.
A quiet night of Scrabble in 1970.
Lambert/Getty Images

If you play often enough, you'll need to learn how to play the board in order to get the highest score. These tips can help you exploit your tiles for all they're worth.

  • Points vs. leave -- Laying down a word is only one aspect of the game. What you choose to leave on your rack is equally as important. Are you setting yourself up for a big play? Do you have a lot of letters on your rack that aren't combining well? Do you need to play some low-point tiles just to make space on your rack for better possibilities?
  • Exchanging your tiles -- Speaking of making space on your rack, it's OK to exchange some or all of your letters. Granted, this eats up one of your turns, but sometimes it can make your point-earning opportunities even better.
  • Parallels -- Every word you create is a score, so try to make multiple words on one turn. For example, if someone lays down TON, and you lay down NOW underneath it, with the N under the O in TON, you get points for NOW, ON, and NO because you've created three different words. If you create three small words that play off a bonus square, it can produce more points than one long, elegant word.
  • Exploiting the bonus squares-- As you look for places to lay down your tiles, be aware of where the bonus squares are and what you're playing around them. You don't want to set up a triple word score for your opponent. Also, try to use higher-point tiles on bonus squares.
  • Hooks -- A hook is adding one tile to a word that results in a totally new word. For example, if EEL is on the board, you can add an F to create FEEL. Sometimes you can ratchet up your score just by adding one letter.
  • Setting up your rack -- The way you look at the letters on your rack can also help you see more opportunities. Some people like to have the letters on their rack in alphabetical order. Others like to group common suffixes and prefixes together.
  • Vocabulary -- Of course, it doesn't hurt to brush up on your vocabulary. One way is to play anagrams, the transposing of letters in a word to create a new word, which helps you visualize your rack. Another way to boost your Scrabble score is to "learn your twos," the list of acceptable two-letter words. Knowing these can help you shed difficult tiles, especially near the end of the game when space is difficult to find [source: Hasbro].

With the game's popularity, it now comes in many variations. Let's take a look at some different ways to play Scrabble.