Are you still puzzled by all those tweets adorned with grids of gray, yellow, and green boxes? Or have you finally tried Wordle?
The daily word puzzle that’s become a viral sensation thanks to its inherent simplicity and eye-catching (and widely embraced) share feature feels like it’s here to stay, at least for a while. Yeah, it’s buzzy. But it’s also a delightful little brain warm-up for your day that pretty much anyone who reads and writes in English can sit down and play.
Now personally, my preferred way to play — this, and really any other game — is to just jump in and figure stuff out on my own time. But not all of us have time to spare, or approach things in the same way. Games are for everyone, period. So if you’ve been having trouble getting a handle on Wordle, here are some helpful tips and tricks that may make the going a little easier.
1. Start out strong
I like to think of Wordle as a neat little mash-up of the New York Times crossword puzzle and Wheel of Fortune. It’s not as hard as the NYT‘s daily challenge, but it’s still a shared experience where every new day brings the same puzzle for every player. That Wheel of Fortune layer is just as key, though; you want a good spread of commonly used letters in every guess, because the more green or yellow results you get, the closer you are to solving the puzzle.
Since your first Wordle guess of the day can be literally any five-letter word, make it a good one. Words with repeated letters can be the answer for the day, but they’re not a great place to start since ruling out the most common letters makes your subsequent guesses easier. Leave words like “added” or “melee” for moments when you think the answer might actually be that. Start instead with words where every letter is unique, and preferably ones that have more than one vowel.
There are those that feel strongly about starting off every day with a specific word because of its spread of vowels. That kind of approach takes some of the fun out of this whole exercise for me. I prefer more of a free association approach where whatever 5-letter word I think of first is my initial guess (so long as it’s free of repeating letters). All that said, “ADIEU” is a great place to start because it’s so dense with vowels. But the same could be said for any other words that’s got at least three vowels: PIANO, ABOUT, OCEAN, EQUAL, OUIJA, and NOISY (among many others) are all solid choices.
2. Pay attention to every clue
The only bad guess in Wordle is one that doesn’t heed the clues that preceded it. The yellow and green boxes we want to see with each guess are vital, of course — they’re the key clues we use to solve the puzzle. But the greyed out letters are equally important. If your first guess makes it clear that R, S, and T aren’t in the day’s word, using any of those letters in a subsequent guess is basically throwing that guess away.
Take note of the virtual keyboard at the bottom of each day’s puzzle. As you make your guesses, the keys on the keyboard are marked to reflect what you’ve guessed. So it’s very easy to see at a glance which letters are still in play. Take advantage of that at every opportunity and you’ll be better set up for success.
3. Words can have two of the same letter
While it’s a bad idea to start with words where the same letter appears more than once, it’s important to remember that such words can be the day’s solution. Once you’ve got a few letters figured out and start to narrow down the possible answers, don’t be afraid to drop in a guess with recurring letters if you think it fits.
Even if you’re wrong, Wordle will tell you — using the same yellow/green clue scheme — if the second occurrence of whichever letter is in the word. So if the day’s answer is “APPLE” and you already know for sure there’s one “P” in it, a guess like “PAPER” that includes two Ps will mark both of those letters as yellow and green, respectively.
4. If all else fails, Google is your friend
Some might call it cheating, but everyone should play the games they want to play in whatever way works best for them. If you want help with the day’s Wordle puzzle for whatever reason, you can search the internet for some gentle assistance without having to look up the whole solution.
Play Wordle as normal when you’re starting out and make a guess. Then, using the clues gleaned from your first guess, ask Google for some suggestions. Let’s say you went with “PIANO” to start things off, and the P and I happen to be in the right spot. You can search “five-letter words that start with PI” and you’ll get a bunch of lists in your results. You can re-jigger that search around whatever clues you get — “five letter words with A and Y in them” or “five letter words ending in OY,” for example — and most of the time your search results will lead to helpful destinations.
For my own Wordle good times, those kinds of searches undermine the fun that Wordle offers and the satisfaction of solving its puzzle. But not everyone is wired the same way! Just remember: There’s no wrong way to play this or any other game, and there’s no shame at all in looking for help, whatever your reasons might be.
5. Screenshot and alt-text your shares
This isn’t so much a tip for playing Wordle better as it is some advice for participating in the community and online watercooler chatter that’s unfolded around the game so far. Wardle’s “Share” feature copies a spoiler-free results page to your clipboard as emojis laid out in a grid for you to paste into a post on your social platform of choice.
There’s just one problem with that: Not everyone on social media can physically see the posts, and screen readers aren’t the best at making emoji aurally legible. What I do instead is paste the Share content into an empty Twitter post and then screenshot just that part of the screen (Mac users can do this natively; as a Windows user, the open-source app Greenshot is my go-to). Then I delete the results from my draft post and drop in the screenshot, which (on Twitter, at least) supports the addition of screen reader-friendly alt-text.
You should be adding alt-text any time you’re posting a screenshot on Twitter. But it’s especially useful for sharing inherently visual Wordle results.
6. Use the same browser every day
There’s no sign-in for Wordle; it tracks your ongoing progress using cookies. So if continuity is important — the game automatically tracks how many times you’ve played and how many rounds it took you each time — you’ll want to make sure you’re using the same computer/device and browser to play every day. You’ll also want to avoid playing in Incognito/Private browser windows.
Likewise, if you regularly clear out cookies or you’ve automated the clearing of cookies, you may want to create an exception for Wordle‘s cookies if you don’t want to lose its built-in performance tracking.
7. Don’t overlook the gear icon
Wordle is incredibly self-explanatory and simple to pick up and play. But! There is a settings page, and you can change a few things about your playing experience in there. I’m a big fan of the Dark Theme, which replaces the all-white background with an all-black background.
There’s also Hard Mode, which requires every guess to account for the clues you’ve picked up so far. If you’ve got three letters figured out, you’ll have to use all of those letters in subsequent guesses. That’s a good practice anyway for solving a Wordle in as few rounds as possible. But Hard Mode makes it a requirement. A separate Color Blind Mode is also one of the options, and its use of high-contrast colors can be easier to read for that subset of players.
8. Don’t let anyone tell you how to play
This advice really applies to any big game of the moment: However you choose to play, it’s the right way. Don’t let social media trolls discourage you from sharing your favorite tips, preferred starting words, or whatever else. Trolls gonna troll. Just enjoy the game, block the idiots, and get on with your day.
One caveat, though: There’s no defense for spoiling the day’s puzzle. Wordle‘s results sharing feature is great exactly because it communicates everything any fellow player would need to know about your successes or failures without giving away the whole game. Let people have their fun.
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