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How do I win at Wordle?

How do I win at Wordle

In a cynical world, Wordle is a bastion of hope. A free game created by Josh Wardle for personal use and then shared with a wider world. For free. This leaves only one question for any true player: how do I win at Wordle?

Wordle: what are the rules?

First you need to know the rules. You have six guesses to discover the five-letter word of the day. Letters can be used more than once. And the website (there isn’t an app) will tell you whether you’ve got any letters in exactly the right place (they go green), the letters right but in the wrong place (yellowy gold) or totally wrong (grey).

How to play Wordl

It’s brilliantly simple. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use tactics to help you.

Wordle and letter frequency

As in so many word games, a basic understanding of letter frequency is your friend. Here, we call upon the brilliant Wolfram Alpha to create a word cloud of letters used in English:

World letter frequency

Or, according to the University of Notre Dame, it goes in this order:

Top 10: E-A-R-I-O-T-N-S-L-C (E is 11%, C is 4.5%)

Next 8: U-D-P-M-H-G-B-F (U is 3.6%, F is 1.8%)

Final 8: Y-W-K-V-X-Z-J-Q (Y is 1.8%, Q is 0.2%)

So, a guess such as IRATE will cover five out of the top six letters, making it a fine opening gambit. Here’s how that looked in yesterday’s puzzle:

Wordle first guess

So, now I know that E is in the right place, R is in there but not the second letter, and I-A-T aren’t in yesterday’s puzzle.

However, as @daveludlow pointed out to me on Twitter, TEARS is a solid alternative. And it may be a better choice, due to the first-letter frequency tactic…

First letter frequency

All this is good, but it helps to know which letters are commonly used where. Wolfram is our friend once more, as it offers a tool that can analyse the frequency of first letters:

Wordle first letter frequency

As can be seen, that’s a different set of letters entirely. Based on that, S-C-P-D-B would all be decent contenders to be the first letter of my next guess.

Some common mistakes

Before I rush in with guess number two, though, it pays to find out what mistakes people make. “Don’t forget that the same letter can appear in a word more than once,” @nikrawlinson told me via Twitter.

Michael Dear offered this sage advice: “Try not to give in and put a known incorrect letter lower down”. A point echoed by @Lisekit, who describes this as “an easy trap to fall into. I think the mind, faced with a grid, can start playing ‘change one letter’ instead of trying a new set of letters.”

Second guess

So, based on all this knowledge, I decided that I’d use O and G in my second guess. I could have repeated E and R (don’t forget that letters can appear more than once), but at this still early stage I wanted to eliminate other letters too. I decided ROGUE made a decent choice, as then I would have used all the vowels.

Wordle second guess

Not a bad result. It now seems quite likely that O and E are the only vowels in the word, and that they’re probably used once. But hang on, there’s more.

Common word endings

English is a language of patterns, with many common word endings. In this case, —GE makes a lot of sense. —RE occurs too, but that would mean our other choices are GO-RE and -OGRE, neither of which creates a word.

That means our word almost certainly ends in -ORGE. So, really that only leaves FORGE, surely. Here we go:

Worde common word endings

Aha, but no! I’ve fallen into the trap of forgetting about double letters, so G could have been used twice. And indeed that’s the only English word I can think of that still works.

Wordle final guess

How to win at Wordle: your tips

Perhaps you have more tips on how to win at Wordle? Let us know via the comments below if so. And good luck!

Lead image from 12 Valuable Wordle Tips You Must Read (but don’t get excited, it’s about a different Wordle altogether).

About the author

Tim Danton

Tim Danton is editor-in-chief of PC Pro magazine and has written about technology since 1999. He enjoys playing with gadgets, playing with words and playing tennis. Email tim@bigtechquestion.com

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