Here’s a guide to the rules for the Scripps National Spelling Bee, and their minor changes for this year’s competition, including a shorter allotted time to respond.
A speller must not have graduated from the eighth grade or turned 15 on or before August 31, 2022, in order to compete. They must attend a school that is enrolled in the bee program and has been declared a champion of a Scripps-sanctioned regional bee, among other stipulations.
How does the competition work?
The competition consists of four segments: preliminaries, quarterfinals, semifinals, and the final.
There are three rounds in the preliminary phase. A speller progresses through them by correctly spelling a word and answering a multiple-choice question about its meaning. Then there is another round of spelling.
A misplaced letter or a wrong answer means the speller doesn’t move forward.
In the quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals, subsequent rounds are held as long as there are successful spells advancing.
In the quarterfinals, the spellers keep competing until there are a “good number” to submit. There is no fixed number; officials have the flexibility to finish that part of the competition.
About 50 spellers can make it to the semifinals, said Corrie Loeffler, the contest’s new executive director.
“Once we get to a good number to make it to the final, we’ll move on,” he said, adding that there may be between nine and 14 spellers.
How long does a speller have?
Each speller has 90 seconds per turn, 30 seconds less than last year.
The pronouncer, who reads the words, is Jacques A. Bailly, who has held the position since 2003 and won the contest in 1980 when he was 14 years old. He can repeat a word and give its definition, part of speech, source language, and alternative pronunciation, if he has any. He can also use it in a sentence.
After the utterer says the spelling word, the clock starts running. To help the speller keep track of the seconds, a green light is displayed for one minute, then a yellow light for 15 seconds, and finally a red light indicates 15 seconds remaining.
In the word meaning rounds, each speller has 30 seconds.
How should the speller respond?
A speller must respond in a certain way, pronouncing each letter clearly and speaking loud enough for the judges to hear. The speller must pronounce the word after spelling it, indicating that they are done.
How does a speller earn?
In the final, if all the contestants spell incorrectly, they all continue to a new round.
If a speller is correct, that person will be given a spelling word drawn from the Championship Word List.
If answered correctly, the speller is declared the champion. “Confetti!” said Mrs. Loeffler.
If the speller misspells the championship word, a new round will begin, bringing back the spellers from the previous round and still competing with words drawn from the normal word list.
Can this go on for hours without a winner?
The organizers may declare a spell if a clear winner is not declared before the 1 hour and 55 minute mark of the finals broadcast. A spell is a special round used to determine a champion or co-champions.
Spellers are hijacked unless it’s their turn to respond. They are each given a series of words from a special list, and they must spell as many as they can correctly in 90 seconds.
The person who has spelled the most words correctly will be declared the champion. In the event of a tie, the judges will choose the speller who had the highest percentage of correct spellings.
If two or more spellers get the same maximum score and the same percentage of words spelled correctly, the judges will declare them co-champions.
Where do words come from?
The official dictionary of the bee is Merriam-Webster Unabridged. Different word lists are used, even if the competition is in its championship or spelling stage.
What about its roots?
This year, the contest will encourage spellers to ask more defined questions about the root of a word, such as its pronunciation, origin and meaning, Ms. Loeffler said.
Johnny Diaz contributed reporting.