Strategy and Tips -- Consonant and Vowel Distribution

NOTE: For the purposes of this article, we always consider Y to be a consonant.

There are very few words which do not contain both consonants and vowels. There are no words longer than seven letters which do so (GLYCYLS, RHYTHMS, TSKTSKS are the 7-letter words with no vowels). Thus, you should consider the balance of consonants and vowels on your rack, and from the letters you are likely to draw, when making decisions.

Let's take a simple example. You have the letters ABCDHIL and it is your turn, early in the game. Let's assume the point value of whatever you play will be roughly similar, and that there is no premium square consideration.

You can't make a 6/7-letter word, but there are several 5-letter words to choose from. Is it better to play something like CHILD, leaving you with AB? Or should you play something more like LAICH, which will get rid of both vowels and leave you with BD? Probably, you should prefer to play CHILD and leave your vowel-consonant distribution even. Whatever you do, though, avoid leaving yourself with two vowels.

Vowels and Long Words

It is much worse to draw with two vowels than with two consonants in your rack. This is because the vast majority of 6/7/8-letter words either have an equal number of vowels and consonants, or they are unbalanced in favor of consonants. If you leave two vowels on your rack and draw five tiles, it is very unlikely that you will be able to make a 7-letter word on your next turn.

The table below shows the number of 7-letter words which have each particular consonant-vowel ratio. For instance, three words have a 7-0 (consonant-vowel) split, while 36 words have a 2-5 split, and no 7-letter words have fewer than two consonants.

Consonant-Vowel RatioNumber of Words
7-03
6-1460
5-210,149
4-310,754
3-41,738
2-536

From this list, you can see that you would prefer to have 4-5 consonants on a 7-letter rack. But supposing you left yourself with AB (a 1-1 split) vs BD (a 2-0 split) on your rack, what are the chances of drawing yourself into the 5-2/4-3 sweet spot?

Expected Consonant-Vowel Distributions

To answer this question, we should know the distribution of tiles in Words With Friends®. If you have 1-2 blank tiles, then a lot of your problems with consonant-vowel distribution are a moot point in any case, so we will remove blank tiles from this analysis. Of the 102 non-blank tiles, there are 60 consonants and 42 vowels. Let's look at your odds of drawing each particular consonant-vowel ratio if you take 7, 6, 5, 4, or 3 tiles. Note that I am calculating these using an online hypergeometric calculator.

7 Tiles

Consonant-Vowel Ratio% Likelihood
7-02.1%
6-111.4%
5-225.5%
4-330.3%
3-420.7%
2-58.2%
1-61.7%
0-70.1%

6 Tiles

Consonant-Vowel Ratio% Likelihood
6-03.7%
5-117.0%
4-231.2%
3-329.1%
2-414.7%
1-53.8%
0-60.5%

5 Tiles

Consonant-Vowel Ratio% Likelihood
5-06.6%
4-124.6%
3-235.4%
2-324.4%
1-48.1%
0-50.9%

4 Tiles

Consonant-Vowel Ratio% Likelihood
4-011.5%
3-133.8%
2-235.9%
1-316.2%
0-42.6%

If we look a the table for drawing five tiles, we can answer our original question. The odds of ending with 4-5 consonants, out of seven tiles, are about the same whether you begin with one consonant or two (about 60% in either case). But those odds are cut in half if you draw with two vowels (to 31%).

Conclusion

By the time you are drawing 2-3 tiles, you're probably more concerned with the strength of your specific word stem. At any point before that, these tables should help you predict the number of consonants and vowels you're likely to end up with from a particular draw. But the rule of thumb is to start drawing with an equal distribution, or one that is slightly weighted in favor of consonants.

Continue on to our article about the endgame, or read anything from the list below.


The words in our dictionary are meant to match, as closely as possible, the words used in Words With Friends®. We have no affiliation with Words With Friends, and offer this site for entertainment purposes only.