How to improve your ‘Wordle’ game -- plus, some of the best starting words

A friend of the photographer plays "Wordle" on Jan. 12, 2022 in New York City. (Alexi Rosenfeld, Getty Images)

It seems as though Wordle has swept the internet: Everywhere you turn, you see people posting that little box grid, showing off their final score, and what it took to get there.

(If you know, you know -- it is pretty cool how you can display to your friends what your Wordle journey of the day looked like, without revealing any spoilers).

Anyway, like the rest of you, I’ve been mildly obsessed with the daily word puzzle, ever since my colleague Jack posted this story explaining the game earlier this month.

My friends and I have gotten pretty competitive about it (dorky, I know), and we were just discussing some tips and tricks we’ve learned along the way, which made me think that perhaps you’d want to read those, as well.

Here’s our advice to you:

1. This might be pretty obvious, but you NEED to be strategic with your starting word.

I’ve read a handful of articles online suggesting some strong opening words. I recommend this one from Forbes, this one from GameSpot and this one from Wired.

All that said, I usually go with one of these:

  • Notes
  • Loath
  • Cream
  • Adieu
  • Paint

There are sites that actually break down how common each letter is in the English language, so they’ll tell you things like “E (is) in 12.49% of words.” OK, good to know. I lean toward “vowel-heavy,” as you can see.

And when it comes to consonants, obviously, you already have some idea which are more popular than others: S, -TH, M, C ... and you’ll want to avoid Qs and Zs, and the letters that don’t seem to pop up as much, in the English language. If you’re someone who reads a lot, or you’re around the written word often, a lot of this should come intuitively.

I’ve even mapped it out on physical paper: Do you know an H is in the second spot? It very likely could be a SH-word, or a CH-word, or a TH-word. Think about it like “Wheel of Fortune.” Just start playing around, in your head or with a pen, and you’d be surprised how quickly you just might get there.

2. And then once you get into the swing of things, you’ll learn what makes for a good second guess.

I like the advice (linked above) that tells you, like, “If you start with NOTES, then try ACRID.”

Think about it: You’ve now knocked out most of the vowels available with those two guesses, and you have a good collection of consonants you’ve tried, as well. When I was just starting out (oh, you know, all of three weeks ago?), I was making silly second guesses, repeating letters and not getting much information from my second attempt. Now, I feel like a whole new player.

My co-worker brought up another good point: Don’t try to guess plural four-letter words, like FARMS or BARNS or HATS.

“Looking at that list of the 2022 Wordle words, none of them are like that -- they all seem to be real, five-letter words.”

I hadn’t considered that until now, but YES.

3. Keep in mind, the game isn’t trying to trick you.

I play a lot of Words With Friends (more than whatever you’re imagining), which is like, KING when it comes to crazy words.

Sometimes I get super frustrated when I’ve come up with a truly great word, all to get beat by “QI,” just because it hits on a triple-word or a triple-letter tile.

Wordle isn’t like that.

At the beginning, I really did think I was going to be stumped constantly, or derailed by words I’d never heard of. But again, that’s not really the name of the game here. I think the “strangest” words lately have been ABBEY, SHIRE and KNOLL. Here’s a list of past words Wordle has used -- just a warning: Don’t click the link unless you’ve played today’s puzzle, or you might get spoiled!

4. But that said, play every day.

Sounds like a “duh,” right?

I stand by it, though. The more you do it, the more your brain kind of wraps itself around the Wordle concept. You’ll improve, for sure.

5. Don’t get too intense.

I swear, I had a dream the other night that the Wordle the next morning would be “larva.” I grayed out on my first guess with that one, so my premonition was no good!

Anyway, for a week or so, I didn’t want to leave my warm bed in the AM without having first solved the day’s Wordle. It was a cute idea in theory, but I was kind of rushing and playing sloppily, just to say I solved it. I had a stretch involving a few 5s, where as I typically solve the puzzle in 3.

So I stopped being so intense. I took a cue from one of my best friends, who takes her sweet, sweet time with it. And that brings us to No. 6 ...

6. Walk away, come back, and you just might have this moment of clarity.

I got slightly stuck on what ended up being SUGAR, so I answered a few emails, opened my phone again, and it all became so clear. I do the same thing in Words With Friends, and you’d be surprised how helpful it can be, just to walk away for a few minutes.

7. Play on your phone, not your laptop.

There’s something nice, visually, about being able to see what letters you’ve played already. That doesn’t happen on your desktop computer, and I’ve found myself to nail better scores when I’m on my phone.

8. Up the stakes.

Does this go against my “don’t be too intense” rule? My friends and I actually have a pool on Braid, where the loser puts in $1 -- meaning, if you took the most guesses on any particular day, you contribute. We’re just going to do something fun with the money at the end, and I doubt it’ll be much anyway, but it has upped the ante a bit!

Braid, by the way, is a site where you can collect and manage money as a group. We just found it. It’s been great so far.

We’re still working out how to deal with ties and such. Do we go to sudden death the next day? Do we punt? What happens if one of us nails it on our first try? Can we take the whole pot? See, this adds a fun element, don’t you think?

9. Just some general advice ...

  • Don’t throw your phone out a window on a double-letter day. I swear, they have to come up with a way to color-code that s---. They don’t have to tell me where exactly the double letter IS, but will they turn it red or something? That frustrates me as much as anyone.
  • Don’t buy an app! There were Wordle “clones” in the App Store, and although they’ve reportedly been removed, I’m just here to reiterate: There is no official app. You just open up this site every day, and play. You can also create a website link on your home screen, for easier iPhone access.
  • I’ve heard of people finding the Wordle archives, to do old puzzles, if you’re just now diving in. I did some Googling and was unable to find a link easily, but hey, just know that the option exists, if you’re willing to do some digging.
  • And finally ... if Wordle is too easy for you (you scholar, you), there’s a hard mode available, as well. Maybe I’ll test it for you and report back.

So tell me: Did any of these tips seem helpful? Let’s chat about it in the comments below.