Pencil & Paper Word Games for Groups

By Melissa S. Treacy
Pencil, Groups
pencil and paper image by Anita P Peppers from

If you find yourself in a group of people with only a pencil and paper to keep you entertained, there are a number of word games you can resort to and keep the pack happy. Try some simple games, each of which requires only a handful of people, a writing utensil and a paper on which to write.


This is a tried-and-true favorite for a group. One person should be selected as the word creator. Having a word or phrase in mind, the creator should write the proper number of dashes and spaces to coincide with the word. For example, if the selected word is “fish,” the creator should write out four dashes, one line to represent each letter of the word. The word should be kept a secret from the guessing players. The remaining players will guess one letter at a time. If the letter guessed is correct, the creator should place it in its proper order. If it is a letter that is not in the intended word or phrase, it should be written off to the side. If it is incorrect, the team of guessers will get a “body part.” Parts generally include those of a stick figure, including a head (circle), body, two legs and two arms. In total, the guessers have six “misses” that can be made. If six letters are missed before the guessers can figure out the word, the creator wins. If a guesser can find the correct word, that guesser wins. The winner should become the next creator.

You can keep a tally of score on the paper, or you may chose to simply take turns creating and guessing. Alternatively, the creator may choose to add more body parts to the hanging man, giving the guessers more of a chance to find the intended word.

Word Finder

One member of the group should write 10 letters at the top of a piece of paper. The group should then select a timer, keep watch on a clock or count themselves. The timer should tell the group to start. The group will then have two minutes to jot down as many words using the 10 letters as possible. The member of the group that thinks of the most words wins. Words should be at least three letters long. The group should vote if a word's spelling is questionable or if the word is suspected to be incorrect. Take turns selecting 10 random letters. Try to mix at least one or two vowels into the selections, as to make word formation possible.

This game may be altered by changing the time available (try using only one minute or extending it to three- or five-minute rounds). You may also want to try fewer letters to select from, with rounds of only five or seven letters. If playing several rounds, keep track of your scores to the side of the paper. Challenge your friends to create a unique vocabulary.

Bull and Cow

In Bull and Cow, according to Pencil and Paper Games, one player should be selected as a chooser. This person should pick a four-letter word. Each of the remaining members of the group will have a turn to guess a word. The chooser will then inform the guessers the number of letters that were correct in their guess. Each correct answer in the correct position is called a “bull,” while each correct letter guessed out of position is called a “cow.” If none of the letters are correct, the chooser should simply reply “zero.”

The guessers will take turns guessing words until the correct word is discovered. The winner is the first to guess the correct word. The winner can be selected as the next chooser.

You can mix the game up by changing the number of letters in the game. You may also choose to make the game easier by not allowing a letter to be guessed more than once.

About the Author

Melissa S. Treacy is a former newspaper and online media editor in Philadelphia. She has been published on, in the "Philadelphia Inquirer," "The Philadelphia Tribune" and "Montgomery Newspapers" since she began writing in 1997. Most recently she was a regional editor for, managing the Montgomery County sites. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Pennsylvania State University.