Posted in Scrabble, Teaching, Writing

ENG 1103: Jonathan Kay’s “Scrabble is a Lousy Game”

Yesterday, as exercise in examining a writer’s claim and joining the conversation, you and two or three of your classmates collaboratively composed a paragraph in response to Jonathan Kay’s 2018 Wall Street Journal column “Scrabble is a Lousy Game.” The paragraph that you wrote included the following required elements:

  • the name of the publication
  • the author’s first and last name and credential
  • his explanation for why Scrabble is a lousy game
  • your own thoughts on his explanation (In your opinion, in what ways is Scrabble a lousy game or not?)

Below is a paragraph written by one of the groups. Read it and note what changes, if any, you would recommend.

In a 2018 column in The Wall Street Journal, Jonathan Kay, a senior editor at Quillette, claims that Scrabble “to put it bluntly, is a lousy game because it treats words as a memorization. Athough as Kay observes Scrabble emphasize remembering lists and compares it to a math contest, it provides innovation and creative thinking to formulate words to beat your opponent. We believe that Kay’s criticism is accurate but does not represent the meaning of Scrabble. Through teamwork and communication we concluded that Scrabble has provided a positive impact on English 1103 and growth in the classroom.

Posted in English 1103, Scrabble, Teaching

ENG 1103: More Four-Letter Words with Three Vowels

ogee: an S-shaped molding, roue: a lecherous old man

Last week I posted a blog entry with a list of twenty-five four-letter words with three vowels. Here’s a list of fourteen more:

  • naoi: ancient temples (pl. of noas)
  • obia: a form of sorcery practiced in the Caribbean (also obeah)
  • odea: concert halls (pl. of odeum)
  • ogee: an S-shaped molding
  • ohia: a Polynesian tree with bright flowers (also lehua)
  • oleo: margarine
  • olio: a miscellaneous collection
  • ouzo: Turkish anise-flavored liquor
  • raia: a non-Muslim Turk (also rayah)
  • roue: a lecherous old man
  • toea: a currency in Papua new Guinea
  • unai: a two-toed sloth
  • zoae: the larvae of some crustaceans
Posted in English 1103, Scrabble, Social Media, Writing

ENG 1103: Stance, Structure, and Sources

Today in class you revisited the exercise of examining the stance, structure, and sources of an essay. But instead of studying those components of my sample essay–as you did in groups on Monday–you looked closely at those parts of one of your classmates’ essays and composed a blog repsonse. That close study of the building blocks of a research essay is one of the most beneficial practices to engage in when you’re in the process of developing a research project of your own. It broadens your understanding of how stance, source, and structure combine to create a unified piece of writing and can serve as an example of how you might move forward with your own paper in progress.

Next Up

This week you will post your final essay to Blackboard and publish it on your blog (if you haven’t done so already). The hard deadline is Friday before class. Remember that you have the opportunity to earn extra credit points for consulting with a writing center tutor. To schedule an appointment, go to If you encounter technical difficulties when you try to schedule an appointment, email Professor Justin Cook, director of the writing center:

Coming Soon

Friday marks our last Wordplay Day for the month of November. To prepare for class and to up your game, review the Scrabble site’s tips and tools.

Posted in English 1103, Scrabble

ENG 1103: Four-Letter Words with Three Vowels

In my sample final essay, I noted that “[d]etermining how to move forward with only consonants or only vowels—or nearly all consonants and vowels—serves as some of Scrabble’s best opportunities for creative problem solving.” Here I offer a list of possible solutions: twenty-five four-letter words with three vowels:

  • aeon: a long period of time (also eon)
  • agee: to one side (also ajee)
  • agio: a surcharge applied when exchanging currency
  • ague: a sickness associated with malaria
  • ajee: to one side (also agee)
  • akee: a tropical tree
  • alae: wings (pl. of ala)
  • alee: on the side shielded from wind
  • amia: a freshwater fish
  • amoa: a kind of small buffalo
  • awee: a little while
  • eaux: waters (pl. of eau)
  • eide: distinctive appearances of things (pl. of eidos)
  • emeu: an emu
  • etui: an ornamental case
  • euro: an Australian marsupial, also known as wallaroo, for being like the kangaroo and the wallaby; also a unified currency of much of Europe
  • ilea: the terminal portions of small intestines (pl. of ileum)
  • ilia: pelvic bones (pl. of ilium)
  • jiao: a Chinese currency (also chiao)
  • luau: a large Hawaiian feast
  • meou: to meow
  • moue: a pouting expression
Posted in English 1103, Scrabble

ENG 1103: Words With No Vowels? Hm, Hmm . . .

In a 1954 interview for Look magazine, Duke Ellington observed that “Playing bop is like Scrabble with all the vowels missing.” If you find yourself faced with a Scrabble rack full of consonants, you can play bop with these words:

  • brr: used to indicate that one feels cold (also brrr)
  • crth: an ancient stringed instrument (pl. -s) (pronounced to rhyme with booth)
  • cwm: a cirque (a deep, steep-walled basin on a mountain) (pl. -s) (pronounced to rhyme with boom)
  • hm: used to express thoughtful consideration (also hmm)
  • nth: describing an unspecified number
  • pfft: used to express a sudden ending
  • psst: used to attract someone’s attention
  • sh: used to urge silence (also shh and sha)
  • tsk: to utter an exclamation of annoyance (-ed, -ing, -s)
  • tsktsk: to tsk (-ed, -ing, -s)
Posted in English 1103, Scrabble

ENG 1103: Two-Letter Words, O-Z

The image above illustrates how the second player’s, or team’s, knowledge of playable two-letter words could enable a Scrabble on the second play of the game. The first player, or team, spelled mosque. By using all seven letters, the second player earned a total of sixty-two points for pointed alone, a word that couldn’t have been played without the knowledge of the five two-letter words that the player formed vertically: op, so, qi, un, and et. The first player scored forty points with a double-word score square. Without a double-word score square, the second team scored eighty-five.

Two of the previous Wordplay Day posts include the first sixty-four of the 101 playable two-letter words, A-E (October 3) and F-N (October 8). Today’s post features the remaining thirty-seven, O-Z.

  • od: a hypothetical force.
  • oe: a whirlwind of the Faeroe Islands
  • of: originating from
  • oh: an exclamation of surprise
  • oi: an expression of dismay (also oy)
  • om: a sound used as a mantra
  • on: physically in contact with
  • op: a style of abstract art dealing with optics
  • or: used to link conjunctions
  • os: a bone
  • oy: an expression of dismay (also oi)
  • pa: a father
  • pe:a Hebrew letter
  • qi:the central life force in traditional Chinese culture (also ki)
  • re:a tone of the diatonic scale
  • sh:used to encourage silence
  • si: a tone of the diatonic scale (also ti)
  • so: to such a great extent; a tone on the diatonic scale
  • ta: an expression of thanks
  • ti:a tone of the diatonic scale
  • to: in the direction of
  • uh: used to express  hesitation
  • un:one
  • up: to raise
  • us: a plural pronoun
  • ut: the musical tone C in the French solemnization system, now replaced by do
  • we: a first-person plural pronoun
  • wo: woe
  • xi: a Greek letter
  • xu: a former monetary unit of Vietnam equal to one-hundredth of a dong
  • ya: you
  • ye: you
  • yo: an expression used to attract attention
  • za: a pizza

Up Next

In next Monday’s class, you will begin work on your creative project. Details TBA.

Coming Soon

At the beginning of class on Wednesday, you will submit your fifth and final Check, Please! worksheet. If you misplace the copy you received in class, you can download one from the link below.

Posted in English 1103, Reading, Scrabble, Teaching, Writing

Tiles, Pens, and Laptops: Reflections on Word Building

Although I have read Matt Richtel’s article “Blogs vs. Term Papers” many times, this semester marked the first time I had studied it as an exercise in analysis. Ordinarily, I include Richtel’s article on the syllabus as a prologue to my students’ own blogging. The article served that purpose in August as well. But as I found myself teaching a different composition curriculum that features an analysis as the first major paper assignment, Richtel’s article served a dual purpose: It not only oriented my students to the role that blogs would play in the class, it also provided them with the opportunity to study the way a writer—in this case, Matt Richtel—presents the ideas of the experts he interviews. By reading Richtel’s article, the students learned about changes in writing practices in college classrooms; by rereading Richtel, they began to see how his writing takes shape. The same was true for me.

The process of crafting a study of “Blogs vs. Term Papers” prompted me to meditate on the similarities between analysis and Scrabble, another feature of the course. The more I examined Richtel’s words, the more details I noticed. Similarly, the more closely I study the words on a Scrabble board and the tiles on a rack, the more opportunities for word building become apparent to me. This semester, the processes of writing an analysis of “Blogs vs. Term Papers” and playing Scrabble have deepened my understanding of how those two activities cultivate the focus that leads to the discoveries intrinsic to learning.

One of those moments of discovery occurred for me as I was rereading the paragraph in Richtel’s article where he addresses an argument put forth by experts who frown on replacing the term paper with the blog. Richtel reports their claim that if teachers want to reduce term papers to blog posts, why not bypass blogs altogether and ask nothing more of their students than tweets? In my previous readings of the paragraph, I was drawn primarily to the clever mimicry at the end. There Richtel omits letters from the words “Sherman’s March,” spelling it as “Shermn’s Mrch” to imitate the word-shortening technique characteristic of the Twitter platform.

As I studied the paragraph more closely, I saw beyond the intentional misspellings at the conclusion. Subsequently, what preceded the imitation of Twitterese became far more revealing. I noticed that the paragraph consisted of only one sentence—one of only two one-sentence paragraphs in the article—and that Richtel’s presentation of the claim demonstrates a flaw in the experts’ logic: “Their reductio ad absurdum: why not just bypass the blog, too, and move on to 140 characters about Shermn’s Mrch?” Realizing that Richtel presented one of their assertions as a logical fallacy, led me to this point: “To assert that defenders of traditional academic writing carry their opponents’ argument   to an absurd conclusion presents those advocates of old-school writing as purveyors of the same flawed logic that their own traditional rhetoric supposedly teaches students to avoid.”

Additionally, I considered the effect of choosing to present the fallacy as a one-sentence paragraph, noting that “[b]y introducing an apparent contradiction in the argument of the advocates of old-school writing, Richtel subverts their claim; and by presenting that incongruity as a one-sentence paragraph, he highlights the issue.”

Reflecting on the effect of the one-sentence paragraph, with its emphasis on a single idea, led me to reexamine the other one-sentence paragraph in the article. That paragraph, a sentence spoken by Professor Cathy Davidson of the City University of New York, underscores the prominence of her words and ideas in Richtel’s article, an observation of mine that led me to the thesis, that “[a]lthough Richtel’s article appears to present an objective account of the disagreements among experts, a close examination of the diction and structure of ‘Blogs vs. Term Papers’ reveals a preference for the innovations advocated by Davidson and Lundsford.”

Rereading Richtel’s article through a writer’s lens showed me details I had scarcely noticed before, ones that now in plain view lead me to ask repeatedly, How could I have missed that? It’s a question I have also found myself asking when a word emerges from a seemingly hopeless combination of Scrabble tiles. Sometimes my students chide themselves for what they didn’t see on the board or the rack, but those realizations are almost always part of the composing process, whether we’re building words with tiles, or pens, or laptops. The closer we look, the more we discover, which is learning in its purest form.

Works Cited

Lucas, Jane. “ENG 1103: On its Face, Who Could Disagree with the Transformation?: Revisiting Richtel’s Report on the Blog-Term Paper Question.” Jane Lucas, 20 Sept. 2021,

Richtel, Matt. “Blogs vs. Term Papers,” The New York Times, 20 Jan. 2012,   

Posted in English 1103, Scrabble, Teaching

ENG 1103: Two-Letter Words, F-N

Playing “famine” here earns the first player, or team, twenty-two points.

Last week’s Wordplay Day post included a list of the first thirty-three of the 101 playable two-letter words. Today’s post features the next thirty-one, fn.

  • fa: a tone in the diatonic scale
  • fe: a Hebrew letter
  • go: leave
  • ha: used to express surprise
  • he: a pronoun signifying a male
  • hi: an expression of greeting
  • hm: used to express consideration
  • ho: used to express surprise
  • id: the least censored part of the three-part psyche
  • if: a possibility
  • in: enclosed or surrounded
  • is: the third-person singular form of “to be”
  • it: a neuter pronoun
  • jo: a sweetheart
  • ka: the spiritual self in ancient Egyptian spirituality
  • ki: the vital life in Chinese spirituality (also qi)
  • la: a tone in the diatonic scale
  • li: a Chinese unit of distance
  • lo: an expression of surprise
  • ma: mother
  • me: a singular objective pronoun
  • mi: a tone in the diatonic scale
  • mm: an expression of approval
  • mo: a moment
  • mu: a Greek letter
  • my: a first-person possessive adjective
  • na: no; not
  • ne: born with the name of
  • no: a negative answer
  • nu: a Greek letter
Playing “famine” here earns the first player, or team, thirty points, but possibly sets up the opposing player, or team, to earn double, double-letter scores with high-value consonants.

Two-Letter “M” Words

M is the consonant that offers the most options for two-letter words. In the first position, it pairs with every vowel, plus y.

  • ma: mother
  • me: a singular objective pronoun
  • mi: a tone in the diatonic scale
  • mo: a moment
  • mu: a Greek letter
  • my: a first-person possessive adjective
With parallel play, the second player, or team, scores a total of forty-one points with the four words “oxo,” “om,” “xi,” and “on.”

In the second position, m pairs with every vowel, except i.

  • am: the first-person singular present form of “to be”
  • em: the letter m
  • om: a sound used as a mantra
  • um: used to express hesitation
Posted in English 1103, Scrabble, Teaching

ENG 1103: Two-Letter Words, A-E

Learning the two-letter words you can play in Scrabble increases your opportunities to form multiple words in parallel play. The list that follows includes the first thirty-three of the 101 playable two-letter words.

  • aa: a type of stony, rough lava,
  • ab: an abdominal muscle
  • ad: an advertisement
  • ae: one
  • ag: agriculture
  • ah: an exclamation
  • ai: a three-toed sloth
  • al: a type of East Indian tree
  • am: the first-person singular present form of “to be”
  • an: an indefinite article
  • ar: the letter r
  • as: similar to
  • at: the position of
  • aw: an expression of protest or sadness
  • ax: a sharp-edged tool
  • ay: a vote in the affirmative
  • ba: the soul in ancient Egyptian spirituality
  • be: to exist
  • bi: a bisexual
  • bo: a pal
  • by: a side issue
  • de: of; from
  • do: a tone on a scale
  • ed: education
  • ef: the letter f
  • eh: used to express doubt
  • el: an elevated train
  • em: the letter m
  • en: the letter n
  • er: used to express hesitation
  • es: the letter s
  • et: a past tense of eat
  • ex: the letter x

Coming Soon

On Wednesday, October 4, you will receive your midterm reflection draft with my notes, and you will have the class period to begin your revision work. The works cited list that follows includes entries for some of the sources that you may cite. You are required to quote or paraphrase two relevant sources, one of which may be your analysis. If you choose to cite your analysis, follow the format of the work cited entries for my sample papers, “The Strange Fruit of Sosnowiec,” and “On its Face, Who Could Disagree with the Transformation?: Revisiting Richtel’s Report on the Blog-Term Paper Question.”

Works Cited

Hagey, Keach, and Jeff Horwitz. “Facebook Tried to Make its Platform a Healthier Place. It Got Angrier Instead. Internal Memos Show How a Big 2018 Change Rewarded Outrage and that CEO Mark Zuckerberg Resisted Proposed Fixes.” Wall Street Journal, Sep 15, 2021. ProQuest,

Horowitz, Jeff, Deepa Seetharaman, and Georgia Wells. “Facebook Knows Instagram is Toxic for Teen Girls, Company Documents Show.” Wall Street Journal, Sep 14, 2021. ProQuest,

Junod, Tom. “The Falling Man.” Esquire, vol. 140, no. 3, Sept. 2003, pp. 176+. Gale Academic OneFile Select,        =hpu_main&sid=bookmark-EAIM&xid=ce48797f

Lucas, Jane. “ENG 111: The Strange Fruit of Sosnowiec.” Jane Lucas, 2 Apr. 2021,

—. “ENG 1103: On its Face, Who Could Disagree with the Transformation?: Revisiting Richtel’s Report on the Blog-Term Paper Question.”

Richtel, Matt. “Blogs vs. Term Papers,” The New York Times, 20 Jan. 2012,

Rossenwasser, David and Jill Stephen. “Writing on Computers vs. Writing on Paper.”  Writing Analytically, 8th edition. Wadsworth/Cengage, 2019. pp. 124-25.

Wolf, Maryanne. “Skim Reading is the New Normal.” The Guardian, 25 Aug. 2018,

Posted in English 1103, Scrabble

ENG 1103: A Close Study of the Board

Developing the ability to analyze involves becoming more observant. As you continue to play Scrabble on Wordplay Days this semester, consider how each game is an additional exercise in becoming more observant. 

Examine the image at the top of this post. There you will see what could be the opening play in a game of Scrabble. Any of the three letters in “lox” could be on the center square. Why might the player, or team, have placed the “l” rather than the “o” on the center square?

The image directly above this paragraph illustrates the potential benefit of not placing the “o” on the center square. If the opponent has two high-value consonants, the first player, or team risks the chance of the opponent playing those consonants and doubling their value on the bonus squares, whereas it’s unlikely that the opponent will be able play consonants–high value ones or not–on both sides of the “I” or the “x.”

Coming Soon

In class on Wednesday, September 29, you will submit your completed worksheet for the third lesson in the Check, Please! assignment series. The students in the 10:40 a.m. class received the worksheet today. The students in the 9:15 a.m. class will receive the worksheet on Monday. Also, you can download the worksheet at the link below. In class on Wednesday, you will begin drafting your midterm reflection. For that preliminary work, you will need to bring a paper copy of your revised analysis to class.