Rules for local spelling bees

The Scripps National Spelling Bee provides rules for all levels of our competition from the classroom to our national stage.

Rules for Local Spelling Bees

The 2021 Rules for Local Spelling Bees will be available in November. Keep reading for the Scripps National Spelling Bee's eligibility requirements and a quick look at how to run a spelling bee.




A speller qualifying for the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee (SNSB) national finals must meet these requirements:  


(1) The speller must not have won a SNSB national finals.  


(2) The speller must attend a school that is officially enrolled with the SNSB.   


(3) The speller must not have passed beyond the eighth grade on or before August 31, 2020.   


(4) The speller must not have repeated any grade for the purpose of extending spelling bee eligibility. If the speller has repeated any grade, the speller must notify the SNSB of the circumstances of grade repetition by March 31, 2021; and the SNSB will, at its sole discretion, determine the speller’s eligibility status on or before April 30, 2021.  


(5) The speller — or the speller’s parent, legal guardian or school official acting on the speller’s behalf — must not have declared to another entity an academic classification higher than eighth grade for any purpose, including high school graduation equivalency or proficiency examinations and/or examinations such as the PSAT, SAT or ACT.  


(6) The speller must not have earned the legal equivalent of a high school diploma.  


(7) The speller must not eschew normal school activity to study for spelling bees. The SNSB defines normal school activity as adherence to at least four courses of study other than language arts, spelling, Latin, Greek, vocabulary and etymology for at least four hours per weekday for 34 of the 38 weeks between August 24, 2020, and May 17, 2021.  


(8) The speller must not have reached his/her 15th birthday on or before August 31, 2020.   


(9) The speller must have been declared a champion of an SNSB-sanctioned final local spelling bee taking place on or after February 1, 2021 or be a spelling champion whose application for participation in the SNSB’s self-sponsorship program has received final approval by the SNSB.   


(10) The speller, upon qualifying for the 2021 SNSB national finals, must submit to the SNSB a completed Champion Bio Form, a Certification of Eligibility Form, a signed Appearance Consent and Release Form, and a photo. The speller will notify the SNSB — at least 24 hours prior to the first day of the SNSB national finals — if any of the statements made on the Certification of Eligibility Form are no longer true or require updating. The speller’s sponsor will provide access to the necessary forms.  


(11) The speller must not have any first-, second- or third-degree relatives (i.e., sibling, parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, half-sibling, first cousin or great-grandparent) who are current employees of The E.W. Scripps Company.  


The SNSB may disqualify prior to or during competition any speller who is not in compliance with any of its eligibility requirements; and it may — at any time between the conclusion of the 2021 SNSB national finals and April 30, 2022 —require any speller who is found to have not been in compliance with any of the eligibility requirements to forfeit the prizes, rank and other benefits accorded to the speller as a result of participation in the 2021 SNSB national finals.  




your spelling bee abcs

Need a quick how-to until we release the official rules? Running a spelling bee with our materials is as easy as A-B-C. 


Give each student a number. This makes it simple to make sure they spell in the same order for each round of the competition.


Use the Classroom Pronouncer Guide or School Pronouncer Guide (included with your enrollment) to answer your students’ questions. They can ask for alternate pronunciations, parts of speech, definitions or for you to use the word in a sentence. At the school-level, they can also ask for information about the word’s origin. Each answer, found right there in your Pronouncer Guide, is a clue to help your student spell correctly. 


If a student spells correctly, they move on to the next round of competition. 


If a student spells incorrectly, they’re out. At the national finals, our Head Judge rings a bell when this happens, but it’s no problem if you don’t have a bell. You can simply spell the word correctly (a great learning opportunity!) and let them know they aren’t moving on to the next round.  


If every student in a round misspells, all the students in the round are invited back to the competition. It’s basically a do-over – everyone from that round gets another chance. 


If a student asks to start over when spelling, that’s fine! Be sure to remind them that they can’t change the letters they’ve already said, or the order they said them in. 


If a student doesn’t say “capital A” when spelling “America,” for instance, that’s fine too! You should judge the spelling based on the order of the letters only; they don’t need to indicate capitals, special characters or spaces.  

Celebrate your champion! Declare your champion when only one student moves on to the next round, and then spells correctly in that one-student, one-word round. You can find printable certificates when you log in at, and we love it when you share photos on social media with #spellingbee.