An often under-rated method of learning new words is that of ‘word families’.

 

Here a base word is chosen and then explored in detail. In Allan Simmons “Scrabble Trainer” he explores several 2 letter words. To show the principle, here is a ‘word family’ for the three letter OCH.

 

 

 

To the left of the picture we see all the four letter words that end in -OCH, to the right we see the 4 letter words (in this case one), that start OCH-.

 

These four letter words are then expanded into 5 letter words by front and back hooking. The diagram has been structured so that either the top line/furthest left line is a front hook, and the bottom/more right is a back hook. If no words exist then the line terminates with a dot.

 

So we can learn quite quickly the 4 front hooks to OCH, and the 7 hooks to those four letter words. We can see that OCH cannot be pluralised, but it has one back hook, which forms the basis for 4 five letter words.

 

The word family could also include anagrams and if it did we would learn :

 

COCH

Anagrams to CHOC

MOCHA

Anagrams to MACHO

MOCHI

Anagrams to CHIMO and OHMIC

OCHE

Anagrams to ECHO

OCHER

Anagrams to CHORE and OCHRE

OCHES

Anagrams to CHOSE and ECHOS

 

 

 

There are no hard and fast rules to creating a ‘word family’, it is just a means of collecting together similar words. Another family might be to take a 7 letter word, remove each letter in turn and substitute it with a blank and see what other bonuses are ‘close by’ in the family.

 

Here we see the word GROCKLE.

 

 

 

There are seven lines coming out, one for each of the removed letters. We can see GROCKLE without an E, but with a  blank makes nothing, and that GROCKLE without a G but with a blank is the most productive member of this family.

Next time you challenge a word, why not make a family yourself ?

 

 

In our previous article we looked at mnemonics – and for hooks they are useful. Mnemonics for longer words can only indicate that a word may be formed, but not what the word is. For example you might remember that SNORTED + E makes a word, but what is it ? Is it RESTONED, ERODENTS, DETONERS or all 3 ?

 

 

 

This is where pictures or stories are useful to remember a set of bonuses.

The set may only contain 2 words e.g you might find a RUFFIAN at a FUNFAIR.

 

 

You may not even know the true meanings of words, providing you can find a good hook.

 

Take the word CORTINA. Few people will know that it is a mushroom membrane. But many people will remember it as a make of car.

 

A fair few people will know CAROTIN is the pigment in carrots making them orange.

 

But, breaking the word CAROTIN into “CAR (made) O(f) TIN” or CAR OTIN might be a useful way to find its anagram CORTINA.

 

 

Take the set of letters A E I L N R T. Do you know all the anagrams ? Maybe this story will help.

 

Imagine a really large tree. Nailed to the tree is a Robin RELIANT. The nail in the tree is called a TRENAIL.  The hole that the nail has made is eye-shaped (RETINAL). You peer through the hole and see a line of rats, RATLINE, heading for a LATRINE. You follow. In the latrine are ENTRAILs.  

 

 

 

The problem with stories is that new words may be added to the dictionary, which mean the story has to change.

 

A SENATOR could commit TREASON – but then atone for his sins and join with ATONERS. But the new word SANTERO doesn’t quite fit.. Maybe that’s the name of the Senator!

 

 

 

A TSARINA might have used the services of an ARTISAN craftsman. But where does ANTIARS fit into the story ?

 

 

 

Why not try and make a story with the four words EOLITHS, HOLIEST, HOSTILE and LITHOES. Remember it doesn’t matter if you don’t know what EOLITHS are..but does EOLITHS remind you of another word ?

 

 

 

The more memorable the picture the more it is likely to stick in the mind. The letters A E I G L N T make 5 words (one a bit too rude to describe the picture here). So look the words up, and make your own (probably rude) picture.

Next time we will look at word patterns.

 

In our last article we looked at learning lists, and breaking long lists into sublists.

 

 

Learning lists has 2 major drawbacks :

 

1)      its tedious and

 

2)    if you can’t remember one word, you may not remember all the words that follow it

 

 

 

Mnemonics provide a colourful way of remembering a set of words, and is most useful for learning hooks. 

Mnemonics work best when the letters/phrase in the mnemonic can be connected to the base word.

 

 

 

Take this as an example … what are the hooks to EVE ?

 

A mnemonic might be MaNLY TuRNS. 

 

 

It could be argued that EVE turned Adam (MAN) when she ate the apple in the Garden of Eden. So this mnemonic can, albeit loosely, be

tied to the base word. But what does MaNLY TuRNS mean ?

 

 

The letters MNLY can all precede EVE to make MEVE, NEVE, LEVE and YEVE.

 

The letters TRNS all follow EVE to make EVET, EVER, EVEN and EVES.

 

 

Note that the vowels in MaNLY TuRNS are not used, which is why they have been shown in lower case.

 

 

 

Using mnemonics that don’t connect with the base words, is possible.. but you have to then remember what the base word is !

 

As an example the hooks to AA are BAA, CAA, FAA, MAA, AAH, AAL and AAS.

 

 

The following mnemonic is poor :

 

Buying Cod For Men Has Little Sense

 

 

 

But if you know that AA is a type of volcanic lava from Hawaii then :

 

Be Careful ! Fire, Magma, Hawaiian Lava Splashes

 

 

provides the front hooks (BCFM) and back hooks (HLS).

 

But will you remember which are front and back ?

 

 

 

It is possible to use mnemonics for bonus words too..

 

 

“SNORTED IN A YUMMY PIE”

 

 

The 7 letter word SNORTED combines with the letters of “IN A YUMMY PIE” (I,N,A,Y,U,M,P and E) to make :

 

I – DRONIEST                     N- TENDRONS                                    A-TORNADES

 

Y- DRYSTONE                     U- ROUNDEST, TONSURED, UNSORTED

 

M- MORDENTS                  P- PORTENDS, PROTENDS               E -ERODENTS

 

 

 

The word AGA can have 2 definitions – a Middle Eastern Chief, or a type of cooker.

 

Why not try to come up with a mnemonic to remember the front and back hooks to AGA?

 

(The hooks to AGA appeared in a recent quiz, scroll down to find the letters you need to use in your mnemonic).

 

 

Next time we will look at stories.

 

 

The first way to learn lists, is to… LEARN LISTS.

 

 

 

Think back to when you were at school, how did you learn to count in French, how did you learn a poem or song, how did you remember battles, chemical elements, etc.. ?

 

 

Probably by rote.

 

 

By writing down the list, time after time, after time. Very monotonous, but does get rewards.

 

 

Some lists though are quite big.  So break the lists down into manageable sizes.

 

For example the 2 letter words could be broken into :

 

a)       26 mini lists each beginning with a different letter (DA, DE, DI, DO)

 

 

b)      26 mini lists each ENDING with a different letter (AR, ER, OR, UR)

 

 

c)       Ignore words a child of 10 would know (and then look at the rest) e.g Ignore AM, BY, IT etc

 

 

d)      Words containing JQXZ

 

 

e)      Words containing 2 vowels (or 2 consonants) e.g AA, AE, AI, EA etc or CH, FY, KY etc

 

 

f)        Musical notes (DO, RE, MI, FA etc)

 

 

g)       Parts of speech (AH, ER, UM etc)

 

 

 

Every long list, whether it is :

 

- all the 2 letter words

 

- or the 7 letter words containing the letters of RETAIN

 

- or the 4 letter words containing 3 vowels (e.g AREA, EPEE, IDEA)

 

 

 

can all be broken in several sub-list. How you create the sub-lists is down to you.

 

 

 

Using the last example as a question …

Can you think of 3 different ways the 96 4 letter words containing 3 vowels can be split into sub-lists ? (Answers at the end, but do think about it before you read them)

 

 

 

These days many top players record the lists and play it back on the car, or the bath. You can too… every mobile phone has a recorder function these days!

 

 

 

Next time we will look at mnemonics.

 

 

 

(For those struggling with the sub-lists for the 4 letter words containing 3 vowels here are 3 sub-list ideas :

 

-          Words starting with the same letter  e.g OBIA, OOZE, OUMA etc. 

 

-          Words split by the sole consonant in the word e.g AREA, ARIA, EURO etc 

 

-          Words split by vowel make up AEE yields AGEE, AJEE, EASE etc..

 

 

There are others of course, the choice is yours)

 

 

At the end of recent Scrabble club evening there was a discussion about how to learn new words. Over the next few postings, we will share some of the tools and techniques anyone can use to learn new words. Everyone learns in different ways so pick the one that works best for you.

 

 

 

But first…there are over 118,000 words up to 8 letters long, which should I learn ?

 

Here are a few pointers :

 

i)                    All the 2 letter words. There are 124 of them

 

 

 

ii)                   As many 3 letter words as you can. There are 1341 of these, so there are a lot.

 

 

 

iii)                 Have a good working knowledge of the 5625 4 letter words.

 

 

 

iv)                 Learn how to form high probability bonuses.

 

For instance the six letter word RETAIN can be made into 70 7 letter words with the addition of 1 letter. Similarly,  SATINE +1 other letter makes 95 words. TORIES +1 other letter makes another 70.

 

 

 

v)                   Learn a reasonable selection of 2/3/4/5 letter words that contain the J, Q, X or Z

 

 

 

vi)                 Learn words with lots of vowels in! 

 

Etc..

 

 

 

 

 

Decide where your weakness lies and build up your learning in one particular area.

 

There are many published books that contain useful lists, the most recent is “Scrabble Trainer” by Allan Simmons published by Collins. The ABSP website www.absp.org.uk  has some useful lists too.

 

There are also various computer software programs – probably the most well-known is zyzzyva.  If you use zyzzyva, make sure you set the dictionary to CSW15.

 

In our next posting we will start giving you pointers to help you learn lists.