Rules for Swapping Letters and Tiles

One little-known Scrabble rule is the one which lets you swap letters during your turn. The reason the Scrabble letter-swapping rule is so little-used, though, is because you have to forfeit your chance to place a word on the board that time.

Since this is a crippling action in most competitive games, most people prefer to place small, low-scoring words that get rid of one or more of the letters they donít like, instead of executing the swap maneuver.

If you simply canít place a word on the board, then you can swap out the letters you want to get rid of and choice from the remaining pile of unused Scrabble letters, like you would when replacing letters youíve put on the board.

Learning Rare Word Lists

Rules for Swapping Tiles in ScrabbleOne reason people learn lists of Scrabble words with the difficult letters (Q, V, J, X, Z) is it allows you to place any combination of letters on the board, thus avoiding the need for swapped letters. Itís almost always a better idea to place a low-scoring word than scoring no points, especially if you can get rid of the offending letters. But itís also good to know the rule exists, so you always have other options.

Seven Tiles Must Remain

The one stipulation that might trip you up is the 7-letter stipulation. To legally swap letter tiles on your turn, there must remain at least seven unused letters in the Scrabble letter bag. If fewer than 7 tiles remain, you may not exchange letters.

Official Rules for Swapping

Below are the pertinent official Scrabble rules, from an online version of the game approved by official authority on Scrabble, Hasbro: ďPlayers are allowed to use their turn to swap one or more tilesÖYou cannot exchange tiles if there are fewer than seven tiles left in the bag.Ē

Scrabble Rules Interpretation Ė What It Means

So you swap 1 of your letter tiles or 7 of your letters, or any number in-between. How many you plan on placing back in the bag, you replace. The only time you cannot do this in the game is when there are 6 or fewer letters in the bag. But if you invoke this rule, you lose your ability to place letters on the board that turn.

Passing in Scrabble

A similar rule allows a person to pass their turn in Scrabble (by choosing not to place a word on the board). A player with the option to either pass or swap words should always attempt the swap. If you canít play those letters this turn, thereís a decent chance you wonít be able to play them next turn, either. So take the letters that are gumming up the works and swap them.

The pass rule is mainly in place for the last stages of the game, when there are not enough letters in the bag for a letter swap. Remember, if all players pass twice in succession, the game ends. This is a rare occurrence.

Avoid Swaps if You Can

Itís a bad idea to swap letters too many times in Scrabble, because your opponent or opponents are going to be adding to their point total while youíre fiddling around with the letter bag and taking a zero.

Sometimes these things cannot be avoided, especially in home games where players havenít taken the time to learn all the annoying and obsessive Scrabble strategies some of us study. But itís almost always better to play a few letters that donít score much than to take a zero. Those few points could be the difference in winning or losing.

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