I love Scrabble, like a lot of people, and I've been playing it most of my life. I'm also pretty good with words, so I win a lot. The only people I've played with who really gave me a run for my money are my best friend who now lives two hours away, and the Scrabble buddy I met via Craigslist, who turned out to be a serial rapist. Oops! (He didn't do anything to me except beat me in Scrabble, by the way.) So in the interest of building your confidence and getting you to play with me, I decided to write some encouragement.
There are some people among my family and friends who think they stink at Scrabble or that they don't have a chance at winning because they think it's all about just being smart, or knowing lots of words, or the luck of the draw. But there are some specific things that everyone has access to. More than my level of intelligence or ability to spell, these are the things that help me win, and they will help you too:
1. Save your blanks.
If you draw a blank, don't just use it to make a decent word. Save it to make a bingo (a bingo is when you use all of your tiles in one play). Save it for two or three turns, or even more. Don't think of a bingo as something that just happens if you're lucky enough to get the right letters. Try to plan for it.
2. Try to make two words at once (or more).
One way to do this is to use an S - which you should also save for this purpose - to make two words, one vertical and one horizontal.
You can also make words parallel to each other, as long as each pair of adjoining letters forms a word. This technique can really multiply your score.
3. Get to know the two-letter-word list.
If you are using a regular dictionary or the official Scrabble-players' dictionary, there are several two-letter words, many obscure that you've probably never used. If you memorize these, you can use them to make multiple words in one play, placing words right next to each other, parallel to each other on the board. This is also a good way to dump a bunch of vowels. Did you know that AA, AI, and OE are acceptable Scrabble words?
4. Watch for word-lengthening combinations such as -ED, -ING, -ION, etc.
These will help you get a bigger score and up your chances of using all your tiles for one play.
5. Take your time.
Don't play right when you find a possible word. Take your time and find the best word you can make.
My mother and I used to have Scrabble games that would last for three days; we'd get up between turns to live life, leaving the board set up, and return to the game as we were able (note: not advised if your home contains a cat).
6. Pay attention to those premium squares.
If you have decent tiles and can make several words, try to make words that allow you to play your high-scoring letters on the double-letter or triple-letter squares.
If you are using an S or other letter to make two words, one vertically and one horizontally, it really adds up if you can find a premium square to place that adjoining letter on.
7. Try not to set up your opponent.
Even if you have a word that could earn you 20 points, it might not be worth it if you set up a great play for your opponent, such as giving them a place to use a triple-word premium square.
8. If you get a U, and the Q hasn't been played yet, save it.
If you use your U for a mediocre word, and then get stuck with the Q, you'll be sorry, especially if the game ends and you still have that Q, because your opponent gets the points from the tiles you couldn't use, and the Q is worth 10 points.
There are some words that can be spelled with a Q without a U, such as QAID and QOPH. It's worth memorizing these too, along with the two-letter word list.
9. Don't be afraid to challenge.
When your opponent plays a word that looks unfamiliar to you, especially if your opponent is a seasoned player or likely to be full of bull, don't be afraid to challenge the play. If you are wrong, you lose a turn, but remember that playing a completely made-up word is legal, and if it's not challenged, the points count. Watch for a "tell," just like in poker...and develop your own poker face so you can try it too, when you dare!
Play online, via Facebook, with friends, on your smartphone, and anywhere else you can. You'll learn new words playing with different people, and it will sharpen your brain, not just for the game, but for life!