How Are Words Chosen for the Scripps National Spelling Bee?


Quick Answer

Scripps National Spelling Bee uses a three-person word panel, with occasional input from other Bee officials, to select words from "Webster's Third New International Dictionary" and its addenda section. Proposed words must be included in the Bee's official dictionary and must have a single acceptable spelling.

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Full Answer

Panelists compose entries that include the word, pronunciation, part of speech and definition. The panel also constructs a sentence to illustrate the use of the word.

Members of the panel meet with other Bee officials for two days in October to review the rough draft of the words list. Entries are revised and removed during the review. The reviewers consider the relative familiarity of a word and the effects of phonetics and etymology in its spelling to rate the difficulty of each word. Following the October review, the word list manager reorders the list according to difficulty.

Another two-day review occurs in February. The words are discussed, and placement shifts if a consensus is reached. This review results in the final word list that is provided to the pronouncer. He begins the process of researching the pronunciation and compiles detailed notes for use during the competition. The judges receive the final word list for review in May. Bee officials perform a final review of the list one day before the competition, after which the list is deemed ready for use.

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