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This was the first page used for all news updates relating to the Collins OSWi changeover. Announcements are given in chronological order. Click here for the latest news

1st December 2003


ABSP Members

Please note - The following news item is fresh to the ABSP Committee and we have not been able to fully digest the impact and issues that arise from this and thus a considered response. However we would like to stress that we will be working with Philip Nelkon, and Elaine Higgleton at Harper Collins, to minimise any negative impact and maximise the benefit for the OSWi Scrabble Club and Tournament scene. More details and your comments will undoubtedly appear in the next TLW.

Allan Simmons - ABSP Chairman


After a great deal of heart-searching, Mattel have decided to end their 20-year relationship with Chambers. The decision was not taken lightly and we all have the utmost respect for the continual development of OSW that Chambers have masterminded over the years.

Our new partner is Harper Collins, publishers of the number one selling dictionary in the UK - Collins English Dictionary.

Harper Collins are a much larger company than Chambers. They plan a far more comprehensive publication programme than Chambers were able to undertake, something like 20 titles over the first 3 years of their contract. These publications will complement all of the Mattel Scrabble products from pre-school through to the adult version that you all play. With the increased distribution that comes with a company of their size, they will be able to sell to a wide selection of retailers including outlets like supermarkets where Scrabble titles have not appeared before.

We are sure that this retail programme will help to make Scrabble even more popular and will create a new generation of keen Scrabble players. In time, this should benefit all clubs, helping to recruit extra members and further raising Scrabble's profile.

Of course a new Official Scrabble Words was due to be published this year anyway and that will be Collins's first Scrabble publication, planned for release in July 2004.

The new wordlist will be based on Collins English Dictionary and the Corpus of words that the dictionaries division has been developing since the 1980s. The Collins corpus is unique and unrivalled in the breadth (data is included from every English-speaking country in the world), in depth (corpus holdings currently stand at over 1 billion words, of which 524 million are made available - as the Bank of English - to anyone with a research or education-based interest in English), and in currency (data is added every month to allow lexicographers to monitor language change and identify new words and senses). The purpose-built software for its analysis is also unique to Collins.

The new publication will, of course, have many new and useful words in it. Collins are also very aware that Scrabble players do not like to unlearn words and whilst there will be some deletions to bring the publication in line with their English Dictionary and Corpus, they currently estimate that the figure of deletions will be fewer than 150 words. There will be several hundred additions.

We know that this may cause some initial problems but Scrabble players have coped with considerably more deletions in the past, notably with the publication of the 3rd edition of OSW.

Mattel are very excited to be working with Collins and we are sure that this change will benefit all club players.

Philip Nelkon

3rd December 2003

The newly formed WESPA (World English-language Scrabble Players Association) will be collating a response from its worldwide (provisional) membership. It will be issuing the Mattel announcement to its regional representatives via email, outlining how it (WESPA) will be dealing with the news and the implications.

Allan Simmons

13th January 2004


Allan Simmons - ABSP/WESPA chairman

At the time of publishing the December TLW we learned of Mattel's decision to switch from Chambers to Collins for Official Scrabble Words and we managed to include the Mattel statement as an insert. The Committee had no time to provide any suitable response, save to recognize that there would be a lot of questions to answer.

Since then, the Committee, in conjunction with WESPA (the World English-language Scrabble Players Association under formation), has organized a focus group to address the associated issues (the ABSP Dictionary Committee). The approach taken is to have an overlap between the ABSP DC and an equivalent body rapidly established for WESPA (the WESPA Dictionary Committee) in order that the ABSP can represent a common-view of world-wide players/associations affected.

The ABSP DC consists of:

Darryl Francis (UK) - also seconded to main ABSP committee
David Webb (UK)
And myself

The WESPA DC consists of :

Darryl and myself
John Holgate (Australia)
Jeff Grant (NZ)
Plus Bob Lipton (USA) as the linkman to the American equivalent Dictionary Committee.

The Dictionary Committee's agree that the focus should be positive and to work with Mattel/Collins in order to ensure a book that will be acceptable to Clubs and Tournament Players worldwide.

As ABSP chairman I have written a letter to Mattel/Collins highlighting some of the key issues as I see them. This dovetails with the many questions already raised by email on uk-scrabble to Mattel. The main points in the letter are summarized below.

Note that on all aspects of change the Dictionary Committee feel there should be a poll of Club and Tournament players to assess opinion (world wide as well as uk) and not just adopt the preferences of the Dictionary Committee. See below to download this questionnaire.

Mattel/Collins have also invited ABSP representatives to attend a meeting on January 21st to provide us with more detail and initiate the formal consultative process. Darryl, myself, and Amy Byrne will/have attended.

Summary of initial letter to Harper Collins:


There exists a set of rules for interpreting Chambers dictionary in order to generate OSW words and their associated inflections. This set of rules should be the starting point for redrafting to fit in with new Collins dictionary source. There were also specific focuses on plural forms and comparatives/superlatives given that hitherto such forms have largely not been explicitly shown in the source dictionary.


It is believed that the citing of 150 deleted words is only to ensure a degree of difference from the current Chambers source dictionary and that this area needs more scientific assessment and consultation. However, the ABSP would like to take this opportunity of change to review the existing OSW word rules (created by the OSW project team). For example:

Obsolete spellings of current words;
Obsolete words;
Words assigned to authors such as Shakespeare, Spenser, Milton;
Constituent letters (eg pH, pjs);
Foreign headwords that are deemed to be only in the dictionary to introduce related foreign phrases (eg JEU and MAL)

Removing words in those areas could make the official word source more publicly acceptable and could help bring the American players onboard with the rest of the world in playing domestic 'OSWi' tournaments. A poll of all players would be necessary to gauge opinion on such changes. See below for the WESPA OSWi Collins questionnaire


If the new book does NOT reflect the existing USA wordlist AND any new updates expected in 2004 then the ABSP (and WESPA) are unlikely to accept the new book until it does. This would be the same stance if Chambers were updating OSWi.


An element of stability is required which means that, other then any agreed deletions for this changeover, future deletions from the source dictionary will not necessarily be automatic candidates for deletions from the new book. Furthermore, even if reference to the Corpus is used to bring into play existing words peculiar to Chambers for the changeover, will future changes be driven by a single source dictionary (ie only new words that appear in new editions of Collins English Dictionary? What is the intended update cycle?.


Will there be any 'compensation' for those players who've bought a copy of the new Chambers Dictionary? Perhaps 50% off if a Chambers jacket cover is submitted with an order for a Collins publication!! There are a lot of players out there who are understandably unhappy that there was no dissuasion from purchasing the new Chambers and it is not a reasonable argument by Mattel to merely state that they were not encouraged to buy the book.


There is an opportunity with this changeover to also address areas of anomalies that exist in OSWI because of the different sources and associated rules. Some areas that could be addressed include (-IZE, -ISE forms); (comparative and superlatives of -Y ending adjectives).

31st January 2004


Following an initial meeting with Mattel/Collins on Jan 21st, the ABSP Dictionary Committee (ABSP-DC) is satisfied that the approach being taken re stability and word sources is reasonable. After an initial Collins OSWi in 2004 formal updates are expected every four years and we are told that the Collins Corpuses of English would generate the input to future updates. Furthermore, Collins plan an OSWi with definitions in 2005. The ABSP-DC will be consulted on all candidate words for deletion as part of the changeover and it's our objective to ensure no USA words will be deleted as part of that process.

The ABSP-DC feels there is still some discussion to be had on the sourcing of words for future updates and regard this area as unfinalised. A formal response/FAQ will shortly be available from Collins & Mattel covering all the queries raised by players and this will also be published on the ABSP website. The ABSP-DC will pursue any further issues that arise once the FAQ has been published

To assist the ABSP dictionary committee, players worldwide are being consulted for their views on possible areas of change in a Collins OSWI. ABSP members' views are an important element so please complete this questionnaire as soon as you can.

Click here to download the QUESTIONNAIRE