More Culture:

January 13, 2022

Wordle, the viral daily word game, is harder than it looks; here's how to play

For those looking to improve their daily scores, here are some strategies to win Josh Wardle's popular online game

Lifestyle Games
Wordle Wordle/PowerLanguage

Wordle, an online game that asks users to identify a five-letter word in six guesses, has become an internet sensation.

How was your Wordle today? Mine was rough, to say the least. 

Wordle — a once-a-day guessing game that asks users to identify a five-letter word in six tries — has taken the internet by storm since creator Josh Wardle's personal gift to his partner went public late last year. Now, people are finding their Twitter timelines filled with black, gold and green emojis as users share their winning (or losing) scores. 

The premise is simple: players have six tries to guess a five-letter word. If they select a letter in the word in its correct spot, the letter will turn green. If they select a letter in the word, but it's in the wrong spot, the letter will turn yellow. If they select a letter that doesn't appear in the word at all, it will turn gray.

After six tries, the game reveals users' results and gives them option to share their emoji-filled messages on social media. It also alerts them to when the next game will be posted. 

Seems easy, right? Well, not always. 

The game, which has spawned several Twitter and Reddit threads on the best strategies for winning each day, has become its own sub-community on social media in recent weeks. On Nov. 1, just 90 people played. On New Year's Day, Wordle had over 300,000 users, and it seems to be growing. 

Here are some strategies that users can apply in tomorrow's game that might help them improve their scores: 

Focus on vowels

Trying to use as many vowels as possible in the first couple guesses can prove to be beneficial, as some strategists have noticed. 

Wardle initially included 12,000 five-letter words in the game, but has since narrowed them down to about 2,500, he told The New York Times. Wardle didn't want to use a bunch of obscure words, attempting to make the game as simple as possible. 

Some users have gone to considerable lengths to find the best strategy. Imperial College London researcher Giorgio Gilestro coded a "wordle solver," which plays a form of the game against itself in order to come up with hundreds of different word choices. 

Gilestro found that "AROSE" had the highest letter frequency, and would make a good starter word. 

Think about letter frequency

For Dan Ridley-Ellis, an associate professor at Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland, the best starter word is "RATES." The word includes the three most common consonants and two most common vowels. 

He shared his research in a five-post thread on Twitter, where he displayed an Excel chart about letter frequency. 

While Wordle may be difficult for some, it's clear that many of Twitter's reigning champions have put a lot of thought into the best practices for success. 

Forget the strategy, just keep guessing

For those less inclined to build code or chart letter frequency, simply logging on and guessing seems to be a popular strategy. Still, some tips are helpful, like realizing that the same letter can be used twice. 

Some users just start with the first word they think of, and use process of elimination. It may take some of the fun out of strategizing, but it provides results all the same. 

And for those who feel they've mastered Wordle already, they can always turn on "hard mode," which requires users to use any revealed hints in subsequent guesses. 

Even without a particular "winning" strategy, many users are just enjoying the game, and the social media community that has been built around it. 

Unsurprisingly, the popularization of Wordle has resulted in copycat websites and apps, allowing users to play unlimited games, or asking for fees in order to access more games. 

Wordle doesn't have an app, and doesn't plan to — Wardle told NPR that the free website doesn't track its user data, and doesn't ask anything of them. Still, unauthorized copycat apps have appeared on Apple's App Store in recent weeks, but were ultimately removed.