Before I launch into this subject here is the definition of :
« The customs or rules governing behaviour regarded as correct or acceptable in social or official life."
"The use in a sport or game of aggressive, often dubious tactics, such as psychological intimidation or disruption of concentration, to gain an advantage over one's opponent."
So why should etiquette and gamesmanship come into games like Scrabble or Words With Friends? (Let's stick to WWF for the moment.)
In my opinion because the rules (read them here) are not written in a way that leaves no doubt as to what is meant.
A few examples...
First example: It does not say that you can add letters to the beginning AND the end of a word. It only says letters must be played either vertically or horizontally.
No etiquette or gamesmanship problem here its just that the rule is not clear.
Second example: The use of word checkers or word finders are not mentioned so checking the rule book we have 2 entries that may apply -
1. "All words labelled as a part of speech (including those listed of foreign origin, and as archaic, obsolete, colloquial, slang, etc.) are permitted with the exception of the following: proper nouns (words always capitalized), abbreviations, prefixes and suffixes standing alone or words requiring a hyphen or an apostrophe."
No mention there!
"Words With Friends has more than 173,000* acceptable words for use in the game. Our list is based on the Enhanced North American Benchmark Lexicon (ENABLE), a public domain list used by many word games. Tap here to visit the site where the original ENABLE list resides. We've added a few of our own words to game such as ‘zen’ and ‘texting,’ and more words may be added in the future."
No mention there either!
*BTW There is a mistake in the dictionary rule. As the longest word playable on the board is only 15 letters long there are certainly not 173,000 acceptable words but only (!) 125,539 acceptable words of 15 letters or less in the ENABLE wordlist.
AND there is of course the unmentioned fact that the game itself checks the word played and, unlike Scrabble, allows you any number of subsequent goes in order to find an acceptable word. A word checker? Of course and do read my earlier posts on using word finders and checkers.
Back to etiquette and gamesmanship which come in when using wordlists and dictionaries that are are frowned upon by some or worse, called cheating by others.
Here étiquette and gamesmanship say ASK. Chat <Do you use any word lists when playing? I don't mind either way so if you do, so will I. If not lets play without one.>
Third example: Then there is also the rule about "Swapping" letters. There is in fact no rule about swapping letters in the rule book! However there is a button "Swap"so it must be allowed. Here etiquette takes on another face.
Let us say that you are stuck with a high value letter Q J Z etc and there is nowhere to place it. This of course should only happen at the end of a game.What happens if your opponent goes out? You have 10 points deducted and he gets 10 points added. If the game is close you will lose. So lets dump the Q J or Z on him and take the only letter/s remaining and unless he passes then you pass etc. he will lose not you. Swapping letters in the course of the game is fine but I personally think that "dumping" a high value letter when he must get it is bad etiquette and terrible gamesmanship.
I had a long discussion on that very subject on a blog at Oxreality that you might like to see.