Rules for Playing a Blank Tile in Scrabble

The start of a game of Scrabble.
Liz West / Flickr / CC By 2.0

Scrabble is the most popular word game ever published, and can even be played online. One of the most common of Scrabble's frequently asked questions is how to officially play a blank tile. 

What Is the Blank Tile?

The game has two blank tiles that are unmarked and carry no point value. The blank tiles can stand in to be any letter. Once laid on the board, the choice of the letter that it stands for is fixed until the end of the game. If a blank tile is placed on a double-word or triple-word square, it causes the corresponding scoring to be applied to the word or words that are created as a result.

Also, as of 1976, the official rules state that if you draw the blank tile before the start of the game to determine who goes first, that blank tile beats an "A." The object is to draw the letter that is the closest to the beginning of the alphabet to go first. If you draw the blank, you can go first. If two players each draw a blank, then the tiebreaker is for each of those two players to draw another tile.

Forbidden Blank Tile Moves

Although some players use house rules to govern the blank tiles, the official rules of Scrabble do not allow you to do two things.

  • You cannot replace a blank tile with the letter it represents so you can use the blank in another word.
  • You cannot change the letter a blank tile represents.

At official tournaments, these rules are strictly enforced. In order to avoid any confusion, the National Scrabble Association recommends that both players make a note of what letter a blank tile represents when it is played.

Scrabble History

The earliest version of the game, called Lexiko, was created in 1938. According to legend, Scrabble became a household name in 1952 when Jack Straus, then-president of Macy's, played the game on vacation. He wanted his store to carry the game, so he placed a large order and within a year, it sold more than four million copies. Now, the game is sold in 121 countries and available in 29 languages. Approximately 150 million sets have been sold worldwide and roughly one-third of American and half of British homes have a Scrabble set. Scrabble was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2004.

Scrabble Basics

Scrabble is played by two to four players who score points by placing tiles representing letters of a word onto a board grid made up of 15 by 15 squares. Much like in a crossword, letters can be placed horizontally along rows or vertically along columns. You get points for words played. Certain letters and squares on the grid where you lay your tiles down are worth more points than others. The word played must exist in that language in a standard dictionary for that language. The object is to score the most points by the end of the game.

Scrabble is a trademark of Hasbro in the United States and Canada, and elsewhere around the world, it is a trademark of Mattel. There are around 4,000 Scrabble clubs around the world.