Paris, France


The 2009 Paris Spelling Bee rules are a simplified version of the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. The Scripps bee, however, operates under a more complex set of rules, which contain provisions that are specific to unique conditions at its annual event.



1. Eligibility

2. Format

3. End-of-bee procedure

4. Speller’s role

5. Pronouncer’s role

6. Judges’ role

7. Time constraints

8. Source of words/ official dictionary

1. Eligibility:

A speller qualifying for the 2009 Paris Spelling Bee must meet these requirements:

The speller must have registered and paid for participation in the preliminary Paris Spelling Bee as outlined in the official blog The speller must have registered and paid for participation in the final competition on or before May 24, 2009.

The Paris Spelling Bee is open to children 7-13 years-old. Age limit: the child must not be older than 13 before July 1, 2009.  Children who are 7-9 years-old may request to participate with the 10-13 year-olds. However, it will be up to the organizers to review and approve this request.  The Paris Spelling Bee may disqualify prior to or during competition any speller who is not in compliance with any of the above Eligibility Requirements.

2. Format:

The spellers are grouped into one of two categories: The Gazelles, for the 7-9 year-olds.

The Cheetahs, for the 10-13 year-olds. The final competition consists of rounds of oral spelling. All spellers spell one word in each round.

In a round, the pronouncer calls each speller, in the same order, to come up to the microphone. The pronouncer says a word. If the speller misspells the word, the judges ring a bell. The pronouncer will offer the correct pronunciation and then he or she takes a seat in the audience. If the speller correctly spells the word, he or she continues to sit with the contestants and proceeds to the next round. The next round starts when all spellers of the previous round have received and spelled a word.

If all spellers in a round spell incorrectly, then a new round begins with all of those spellers—all remain in the competition and spell in their original order.  All spellers eliminated in the same round are tied for the same place. See the end-of-bee procedure, Rule 3, for how the winner is determined.

3. End-of-bee procedure:

If only one speller in a round spells correctly: If only one speller spells correctly in a round, a new one-word round begins and the speller is given an opportunity to spell the next word on the list (anticipated winning word). If the speller succeeds in correctly spelling the anticipated winning word in this one-word round, the speller is declared the champion.

If a speller misspells the anticipated winning word in a one-word round: A new round begins with all the spellers who spelled (correctly and incorrectly) in the previous round. These spellers spell in their original order.

4. Speller’s role:

The speller makes an effort to face the judges and pronounce the word for the judges before spelling it and after spelling it. The speller while facing the judges makes an effort to utter each letter distinctly and with sufficient volume to be understood by the judges.

Pronunciation of the English alphabet: The speller must use the correct American/English pronunciation for the letters in the given word.  Failing to pronounce the letters correctly will result in the speller being eliminated.

For example, the speller cannot mix up “g” and “j”, and “i” and “e.”

In English:

“g” sounds like “gee” (which rhymes with “he”)

“j” sounds like “jay”

“i” sounds like “eye” or the i sound in “bye”

“e” sounds like the “e” in “me”

To practice hearing the sounds of the English letters you can visit:

Starting over: Having started to spell a word, a speller may stop and start over, retracing the spelling from the beginning, but in retracing there can be no change in letters or their sequence from those first pronounced. If letters or their sequence are changed in the respelling, the speller will be eliminated.

Gazelles may ask for the word and or the sentence to be repeated and for a definition.

Cheetahs may ask for 1) the word and or the sentence to be repeated, 2) for a definition, 3) part of speech, 4) language(s) of origin and 5) alternate pronunciations.

Misunderstandings: The speller is responsible for any misunderstanding of the word unless (1) the pronouncer never provided a correct pronunciation; (2) the pronouncer provided incorrect information regarding the definition, part of speech, or language of origin; or (3) the speller correctly spelled a homonym of the word and the pronouncer failed to either offer a definition or distinguish the homonyms.

Triple SSS suggestion:

It is suggested that as often as possible, the speller use the triple SSS rule: Say it, Spell it, Say it again. This gives the pronouncer and the judges a chance to make sure the speller understood and repeated the word correctly, it gives the speller a chance to think about the word before spelling it. The speller will not be disqualified for failing to use the triple SSS suggestion.

5. Pronouncer’s role:

The pronouncer strives to pronounce words according to American English standards.

Homonyms: If a word has one or more homonyms, the pronouncer indicates which word is to be spelled by saying the word in a sentence.

Speller’s requests: Gazelles may ask for the word and or the sentence to be repeated and for a definition. Cheetahs may ask for 1) the word and or the sentence to be repeated, 2) for a definition, 3) part of speech, 4) language(s) of origin and 5) alternate pronunciations.

The pronouncer does not entertain root word questions, requests for alternate definitions, or requests for markedly slower pronunciation.

Pronouncer’s sense of helpfulness: The pronouncer may offer word information—without the speller having requested the information—if the pronouncer senses that the information is helpful.

6. Judges’ role:

The judges uphold the rules and determine whether or not words are spelled correctly. The decisions of the judges are final.

Interaction with the speller: Because seeing lip movements may be critical in detecting misunderstandings or misspellings, the judges encourage spellers to face them when pronouncing and spelling the word.

Misunderstandings: The judges participate in the exchange of information between the speller and pronouncer if they feel that clarification is needed. Also, the judges listen carefully to the speller’s pronunciation of the word; and, if they sense that the speller has misunderstood the word, the judges work with the speller and pronouncer until they are satisfied that reasonable attempts have been made to assist the speller in understanding the word within the time constraints described in Rule 7. While the judges are responsible for attempting to detect a speller’s misunderstanding, it is sometimes impossible to detect a misunderstanding until a spelling error has been made. The judges are not responsible for the speller’s misunderstanding.

Pronouncer errors: If the judges feel that the pronouncer has mispronounced a word, they will direct pronouncer to correct the error as soon as it is detected.

Disqualifications for reasons other than clear misspelling: The judges will disqualify a speller who refuses a request to start spelling; who does not approach the microphone when it is time to receive the word; who engages in unsportsmanlike conduct; who, in the process of retracing a spelling, alters the letters or sequence of letters from those first uttered; or who, in the process of spelling, utters unintelligible or nonsense sounds.

Speller activities that do not merit disqualification: The judges may not disqualify a speller (1) for failing to pronounce the word either before or after spelling it, (2) for asking a question, or (3) for noting or failing to note the capitalization of a word.

7. Time constraints:

The speller’s time at the microphone has a limit of 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Time begins when the pronouncer first pronounces the word. At 2 minutes and 30 seconds, the speller will be asked to spell the word or step down.

8. Source of words:

The Gazelle’s words will come from the Fry’s List of 1000 sight words (source: ) See: “The Hundred’s Word List (FRY) (In PDF format)”  First Hundred through Tenth Hundred.” .

The Cheetah’s words were compiled from lists that frequently appear in American local, state and national spelling bees. These lists of words have been made available to the contestants on or before April 13, 2009.  The pronouncer will t use the word lists until they have been exhausted.  However,  when it becomes necessary, the pronouncer will refer to a special list of challenge words that impartial members of the jury have prepared. These special lists will not be disclosed to the contestants ahead of time. The Paris Spelling Bee accepts American and British spellings.