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Word Games for Writers

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Sometimes writers need a break.

OK, I’ll admit it: if you scrolled through the apps on my iPhone, you’d know I love a good word game. As someone who spends my days penning paragraphs, threading together words like pearls on a string, I’ve always been drawn to the Scrabbles and crosswords of life. And it turns out that as a writer, that might be good for me.

According to Daphne Gray-Grant of The Measurement Standard, “Words are the building blocks of writing, and while we need to do serious work with them—like write brochures, produce Web copy and churn out reports—we can also learn from playing a few games with them. You know, take play seriously—like kids do.”

What do you think? Could engaging in regular word games be the tool that helps you in the daily work of writing Web copy for a Wheaton dentist or the game-changer that sharpens your mind when creating SEO articles about dry topics like anemometer fume hood testing? Could a few rounds of online Boggle fuel your creativity? Is there serious value to be found in play?

In either case, whether you play games for pure pleasure or intentionally to stay sharp, you can’t deny it: they’re fun. So here are some of our favorite word games, designed to both sharpen your writing skills and help you relax!

Classic Games for Writers

  • Scrabble: The old standard. I don’t know what it is, but most writers like Scrabble, the game of building words on a grid-like board.
  • Balderdash: This board game challenges your vocabulary knowledge with bluffing and trivia. One player gives a word’s real definition and the others bluff with false ones—the player has to determine which is right.
  • Boggle™: Build words from 16 random letters, using letters that are adjacent. The more and longer your words, the better!
  • Crossword Puzzles: Is there anything more iconic than a writer loving crossword puzzles? Whether it’s the Saturday New York Times or an online version, crossword puzzles stretch the mind to think through clues and discover unique terms for saying things.
  • The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest: Practice your most witty one-liners and try to earn some serious bragging rights by playing this writerly game from The New Yorker. Based on a given drawing, participants send in their clever captions, with winners chosen by the New Yorker staff.

Word-Centric Smartphone Apps

  • Words with Friends: Available on Facebook, Androids, iPads and iPhones, this wildly popular and addictive game lets you play a type of Scrabble with friends and other users.
  • Hanging with Friends: Remember Hangman? Play it on your phone through Hanging with Friends, a game of strategy, competition and interaction.
  • WhirlyWord: See how many words you can find from six letters. Unlike Words with Friends and Hanging with Friends, you play this game solo rather than against opponents, but it’s a great way to stretch your word-making ability.

Computer Word Games

  • Free Rice: Test your vocabulary with this nonprofit website that donates grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program for every correct answer you make.
  • Text Twist: In this Boggle-esque computer game, try to make as many words as you can from a set of letters.
  • Etymologic: This online game calls itself the toughest word game on the Web. It tests your knowledge of word origins through a series of 10 etymology puzzles.

Do you already play any of these games? What other word games do you love?

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9 Responses to Word Games for Writers

  1. I must admit, I’m rather partial to Scrabble. I proposed to my wife using a Scrabble board, and I count it as one of the rare times I’ve won. After ten years of marriage, we’ve taken our games online, but they’re still intense and exciting.

  2. I still play Scrabble on the board, and used to play Words with Friends on my iPhone, but now I am absolutely hooked on Word Colors. It has a different strategy than Scrabble and WWF, and in my opinion is a lot more fun! You should definitely check it out if you love word games.

  3. Boggle / Scramble with friends is really useful for SEO agility – it teaches you how to quickly stem and prefix a word, which really helps when you are trying to find variations (help vs helper). This is also useful when trying to vary the presentation of a particular keyword within in the page.

    There is one other reason I really like scramble with friends – its pretty dang hard to cheat at! I should know – one of my hobbies is writing word game solvers! Both scrabble and hangman are vulnerable to anyone with a fast dictionary search (pattern matching for hangman, anagrams for scrabble) but the time limit on boggle and complexity of getting information in/out of a solver site quickly tends to keep the game relatively clean. Plus those word stemming skills really come in handy. For example there is tank cleaning, tank cleaning, clean tank, cleaner tank, tanker cleaning, …

    Oh wait…that’s my other article speaking….gotta go feed google :)

  4. I love Scrabble and Words With Friends. I have been playing for years and am still addicted. Thank you for the other suggestions. I am looking forward to trying them. If anyone needs help findiing words, is a great word finder. It not only helps you find the best word, but it also gives the point value. I hope it helps you with your games!

  5. Hi please check out my game Word Fighter on facebook, it’s similar to Text Twist but more skill intensive and with a fun combo system.


  6. I use Boggle as a calming game with my students.

  7. The great thing about a game of Scrabble on the actual board in front of you is that you get to a) Play one entire game from start to finish (not like on online games that can take days to complete, or where your opponent ducks out if he’s losing), and b) You’re face-to-face and can see the reactions to hitting your opponent with a great word. There’s nothing more satisfying than getting a 7-letter word and watching the other person sweat! Also stops people using online cheats like (which I can’t claim to not use…, but it’s nice to play a game where you know you’re just fighting someone’s brain, not a dictionary.)

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