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Jan 29 2016 Published by
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Sometimes when you play a game of Scrabble, you end up with a rack that looks a little like this: AAEIIOU

If you were on Wheel of Fortune, you’d wish you could ask Pat Sajak, “Can I buy a consonant?” (He would say no.)

It’s an unpleasant condition often called “vowelitis”. This does happen to the best players every so often, but if it’s happening to you almost every game, then there’s a cause to the problem.
If your rack is DEHIORU, that’s good because it’s “balanced”. That means there is about an equal number of vowels and consonants. But if you then find the letter A on the board and make the word H(A)RD, you’d be keeping EIOU–all vowels. Odds are in your next turn, you’ll be stricken with another case of vowelitis. Instead, make a word that will leave you with close to an equal number of vowels and consonants. You should always strive to maintain a “balanced” rack (and diet), to avoid vowelitis.

In one game my opening rack was AAEGGOY. I had some duplicate letters, but otherwise it’s a decent rack. I can make words like EGG, EGGY, YAG, AGE, AGO, GAGE and many more. I chose to make the word YOGA. YOGA gave me a reasonable score (16 points) and it also allowed me to keep AEG, which balances my rack for next turn with common letters. Even though EGGY would be a couple more points, I would much rather keep AEG for next turn than AAO.

Sometimes though, even with your best effort to avoid it, you will still experience vowelitis. If you have many vowels, you can look for a word that uses several vowels, you can use the consonants on the board, or if those options aren’t scoring you enough points or getting rid of enough vowels, you can take zero points and exchange. Generally, when you exchange, the only vowel worth keeping is one E (the most common letter in our language).

If you’re on your best bEhAvIOUr, you can cure vowelitis. But I’m not being fAcEtIOUs when I say prevention is better than treatment.