I would guess that every word game fan has experienced this kind of frustration. You are absolutely sure that your word is correct and allowed, but your opponent – or in mobile games – the computer says: This word is not valid! I started playing Scrabble and later tried Words With Friends. It sometimes happens that a word I used to play in Scrabble belongs to the invalid words in Words with Friends. This is confusing of course and as I found out in online forums: many players are confused. But in some cases, there’s an easy explanation why a word is valid and why not. I will try to explain some of these problems.
What the Rulebook Says about Valid and Invalid Words in Words with Friends
Here is a quote from the relevant part of the Words with Friends rules:
All words labeled as a part of speech (including those listed of foreign origin, and as archaic, obsolete, colloquial, slang, etc.) are permitted with the exception of the following: proper nouns (words always capitalized), abbreviations, prefixes and suffixes standing alone or words requiring a hyphen or an apostrophe.
The rulebook also says where the words in the Words with Friends list come from:
Words with Friends has more than 173,000 acceptable words for use in the game. Our list is based on the Enhanced North American Benchmark Lexicon (ENABLE), a public domain list used by many word games. […] We’ve added a few of our own words to the game such as ‘zen’ and ‘texting’ and more words may be added in future.
I was pleased to see that the producers of Words with Friends try to keep their rulebook short. Reading pages and pages of instructions can be annoying. But as I skipped through the complaints of the players about strange valid or invalid words in Words with Friends I thought: maybe these instructions are a little too short. Some examples might help players to understand everything correctly.
The Most Frequent Valid and Invalid Word Errors in Words with Friends
Most of the questions can be roughly divided into four categories:
- The difference between nouns and proper nouns
- The difference between acronyms and abbrevations
- Strange foreign-, slang- and outdated words
- Words that have no entry in a dictionary
1. The Difference between Nouns and Proper Nouns
In any word game – also in Words with Friends – proper nouns are not allowed. Proper nouns are specific terms for certain objects, human beings, or animals. For example, the word COUNTRY is a noun. But the specific word for a country – like SWEDEN – count as invalid words in Words with Friends.
But there are exceptions! JAPAN is the name of a country and therefor it should not be valid. But the word has a second meaning. To “JAPAN something“ means to coat something with a special black lacquer. Knowing such exceptions will help you to win your Words with Friends games.
2. The Difference between Acronyms and Abbreviations
A tricky case is the word OKAY and its equivalent OK. Both are used in spoken language, but only OKAY is allowed and OK is an invalid word in Words with Friends. Words with Friends players aren’t the only ones to complain about this fact. OK is also not allowed in Scrabble and the Scrabble World would really like to add OK to the two letter wordlist. But OK is an acronym of the word OKAY and that is why it is not allowed in your favourit Word Game. Though it is one of the most famous words in the world.
One forum user said that the word PROMO should not be allowed in Words with Friends, because it is a short form of the word PROMOTIONAL, an abbreviation. The rulebook says that abbreviations are not allowed. But PROMO has two different meanings. First of all the abbreviation. But PROMO can be used as an expression to explain a persons seemingly over-the-top personality, too, or as an expression of saying that a person likes to promote his/herself too much. That`s why it is allowed in Words with Friends.
3. Strange Foreign-, Slang- and Outdated Words
The Words with Friends wordlist contains many words that you have probably never heard before. Old words no one uses any more, foreign words only experts are familiar with, and slang words that often seem a little ridiculous. It’s hard to tell if there is a rule behind it that helps you to distinguish – for example – the valid slang word (ZA for Pizza) from the invalid slang word (LOLZ – valid in Scrabble, the plural of LOL “Loughing out loud”).
You can only try to learn those words by heart. The good thing is that you might get to know new cool words and facts, because the Words with Friends dictionary has explanations for every valid word.
4. Words That Have No Entry in a Dictionary
Have you ever missed using the word QUO in Words with Friends? I have – and as I have read in the forums, many Words with Friends players have too. So why does QUO count as one of the invalid words in Words with Friends? QUO only appears in multi-word phrases – like STATUS QUO. And as the word QUO solo does not exist, it does not appear on any word game wordlist – not in Words with Friends, not in Scrabble, and so on.
I am still angry that my word is invalid in Words with Friends!
I agree that these four points will not explain every presence or absence of words in the Words with Friends word list. But the thing is, this is a list that contains words that:
- adhere to the rules of the game
- the producers of the game ranked as relevant
- and words that are in the list because people sometimes make mistakes.
But nevertheless, the producers of Words with Friends are constantly working on this list and you have the possibility to contact them if you think a word is wrong or another word should be added. I found some older complaints about missing words in the forum – for example four years ago a player said that the word PROMPT should be in the list. I checked the Words with Friends dictionary and it has now been added. But obviously the Words with Friends team needs quite a long time to complement the list. Some players are getting angry, they feel that their voices are unheard, and some of them threaten to quit playing Words with Friends. So let’s hope that their words will appear soon.
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