If you haven’t heard of it – how? – The rules are simple. Every day there’s a new five-letter word (a wordal.) You get six attempts to guess it, and after each the tiles change color to tell you where a letter is in the word and in the correct place. was on (green), in the word but not in the correct place (yellow), or not in the word (grey.)
These limitations are what make Wordle so much fun. Everyone in the world (and, especially, in my house) is trying to guess the same word in the least number of guesses. The clever thing is that you can share your progress once you succeed—but all the letters are disguised as colored blocks. So you can celebrate without giving anything.
But it should never be said that there is a game that can’t be beaten (or, according to my girlfriend, ruined) with a little research, analysis, and time. So, if you’ve ever wondered what the best strategy is to win at Wordle, let’s break it down.
Letter frequency analysis is the study of how often and where letters occur in words. This is fairly basic to cryptography, because if you have to decode a secret message like we’re doing with Wordle, it’s useful to know that you’re more likely to see an E than a Q.
While the exact letter frequency distribution changes depending on the source text, the most common characters do not actually change.
Peter Norvig, Director of Research at Google, Used data from Google Books To come up with this list of the top 12 most common letters in the English language:
- E (in 12.49 percent words)
- T (9.28 percent)
- A (8.04 percent)
- O (7.64 percent)
- I (7.57 percent)
- N (7.23 percent)
- S (6.51 percent)
- R (6.28 percent)
- H (5.05 percent)
- L (4.07 percent)
- D (3.82 percent)
- C (3.34 percent)
However, for us wordlers on this list, there is a problem. It is based on a natural-language source text, meaning words messes things up for us. By far the most common word in the English language, representing 7.14 percent of all words in the Google Books source text, followed by Of (4.16 percent), And (3.04 percent), and To (2.6 percent). This means that the position of T and H in the list must be higher than theirs.
Another option is to simply look at the distribution of letters in dictionary words. analysis of Concise Oxford Dictionary (9th ed., 1995) found that the 12 most common letters were:
- E (11.16 percent in words)
- A (8.45 percent)
- R (7.58 percent)
- I (7.54 percent)
- O (7.16 percent)
- T (6.95 percent)
- N (6.65 percent)
- S (5.74 percent)
- L (5.49 percent)
- C (4.54 percent)
- U (3.63 percent)
- D (3.38 percent)
While this list is also not perfect, as it uses a nearly 20-year-old British English dictionary as its source, between the two we can use our judgment and creativity to come up with great wordlet opening words.
There are a few things we should keep in mind when coming up with the opening words of our Wordle:
- Each guess had to be an actual five-letter word.
- Not every guess needs to include letters that you know are in the wordal.
- Overall letter frequency does not necessarily mean that each letter is likely to be in the same number of words. Neither ETAOI or EARIO are the words, despite having the most common letters in each list in descending frequency order.
- This is a game and meant to be fun.
So, the first word must be five letters, and we want it to draw from the most common, eight letters. That means we’re dealing with E, T, A, O, I, N, S and R (the top eight in both lists are actually the same.)
Some good options are:
But you should feel free to come with yourself.
Then for a second guess, we want to mark any remaining letters in the top 10 (with little judgment as to what they are). This means that there are some good options:
- if you . let’s start with notes, Spicy
- if you . let’s start with resin, reluctant
- if you . let’s start with teas, Sugar
- if you . let’s start with Madam, money
Again, you should make your own here. i would suggest Using a Site Like Anagram Scramble to help. (I couldn’t have written this article without it.)
After those two guesses, you should have at least a few letters and be ready to guess based on the actual wordplay—or, as my girlfriend puts it, “playing right.”
a word of warning. If playing like this takes the fun out of things (and being able to reliably guess most words from your fourth guess, I guess), you should try hard mode.
Tap the Settings icon and then enable Hard Mode. This forces you to use any revealed letters in your subsequent guesses.
Obviously, you should still start with a sensible first guess. But Hard Mode prevents you from playing down letter frequency words entirely.
Understanding letter frequencies helps a lot, but there are a few other things you should keep in mind:
- Despite being hosted on a UK domain, Wordle is based on American English. If you live in Ireland (like I do), this means that six-letter-words that end in -OUR can end up as five-letter-words that end in -OR.
- Letters can appear twice in words, and often do.
- by this new York Times ArticleOf course, we know that developer Josh Wardle used words identified by his wife to create the list. Each one will only appear once, but you should know this.
- Remember all the tips in Scrabble, such as Q requires U, and Z are uncommon. As much fun as Wordle is, it’s just another word game and all the usual bits of advice apply.
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