How to Score a Scrabble Play

Counting Triple Word Score & More

Scrabble game
Rebecca Boyd / Flickr / CC By 2.0

Scrabble is scored by adding the numbers on each letter tile together within the word that is formed on a player's turn, which includes letters that were played from the player's rack and letters already on the board. The blank tile acts as a wild card, allowing the player to choose any letter in the alphabet, but not counting anything to the score of the word. Sounds simple, right? But once you add in the special squares that can double or triple the score for a character or word and be combined with each other, scoring Scrabble can get a little tricky.

There are a few basic rules that govern the process of scoring Scrabble:

  • Special squares only count the first time a letter is played on them.
  • The light blue double letter square doubles the point value for the tile played on it, and the blue triple letter square triples the value for the tile. If a blank tile is played on either of these special squares, it still contributes nothing toward the total word score because a blank tile has a score of zero.
  • The pink double word squares double the entire word value and the red triple word scores triple the entire word value. This remains true even if a blank tile covers the double word score or triple word score square. The pink square in the middle of the board used to start the game is a double word score.
  • Double letter and triple letter squares are counted first to obtain the initial word score, and then any double word score or triple word score squares are counted.
  • A player using all seven letters in their rack gains a bonus 50 points to their score after all other special squares are counted. The 50 bonus points do not count toward double and triple word scores.
  • If two or more words are formed on a single turn, each word is scored individually. This means any special scoring squares are counted for both words.
  • At the end of the game, all tiles in a player's rack are subtracted from their score and the highest score wins. If two players tie, the person with the fewest points subtracted from their score wins the tie breaker.

Examples of Scoring Scrabble

Let's look at a few real world examples to see how the rules work out when playing the game. The basic rule to follow is that light blue and blue come before light pink and red.

The "T" in "thing" covers a double word score and the "G" covers a double letter score.

The point value for the "G" is doubled when adding up the word's initial score. This initial score is then doubled to get the final score.

The word "thing" is formed and both the "T" and the "G" are on double word score squares.

The letter values are added up to get the word's initial score, this score is doubled for the first double word score and that total is then doubled for the second double word score. The final value is four times the initial word score.

The "T" in "thing" is covering a double word score square, and a player lays down an "S" to create "things."

The double word score square under the "T" does not count for the new word because the "T" was not played in that round. If the added "S" on the end of the word is on a double letter or triple letter score the value of the S is doubled or tripled.

If the "S" is on a double word or triple word square, the score for the entire word ("things") is doubled or tripled.

The "S" at the end of "things" sits on a special square and is also used to spell out the word "star."

When a player creates two (or more) new words, all words are scored independently and then added together to form the total score for the play. So if that added "S" is on a triple letter score, the "S" is tripled for both "things" and "star." Even better, if the "S" is on a double word score, both newly formed words are doubled. This can really create some high scores when used properly.

What about a word that covers two triple word score squares?

It is very difficult to lay down letters on two different triple word score squares in the same turn. It takes at least eight letters for the same word to be on two of these red squares, so the player would need to form the longer word around a smaller word.

But it can be done, and it follows the same rule as forming a word over two double word scores. After the word's letters are added together to form the initial value, this score is tripled for the first triple word score and that total is tripled again for the second triple word score. The end result is nine times the initial word's value.

What are some strategies around special scoring tiles?

Scrabble isn't always won by the person with the best vocabulary or the highest scoring tiles in their hand. Scrabble can also be quite strategic.

  • Don't always play high scoring letters just because you can. Letters like "Q" and "X" are best used in combination with one of the special squares to get the maximum value out of them. Late in the game, it might be best to just play them. If you are caught with a high scoring letter in your rack at the end of the game, it counts against you.
  • Don't give the opponent an easy double word or triple word score. When you play adjacent to these squares, it makes it easier for your opponent to use them. This can't always be avoided, but if you can make a word in some other part of the board, even if it doesn't score quite as much, it might be a better move.
  • Save your "S" tiles. The "S" may be the most versatile tile in Scrabble. It can help you form two words in one play by making an already-played word plural. It can also extend your word by one letter when you need that extra square for a double or triple word score. So even if you can play "things" from your hand, consider holding back that 's' unless it lands on a special square. It may be more useful later in the game.