Wordle is a game created by Josh Wardle in which a player has six guesses to figure out a five-letter word. It strikes me as a mix between old Mastermind game and the newspaper jumbles.
Before I started playing Wordle, I searched YouTube for a guide to strategy, and I found the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l92g6Yy8t5g. This person has a solid foundation on solving Wordle, but the more I played, the more I wasn’t sold on his entire strategy.
In short, the idea here is to start by using four words every time to figure out as many letters as possible. His base words are “tubes” “wordy” “champ” and “fling”. This is great, because in four words, 20 letters are used, but I think the strategy could be improved upon.
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My general strategy
The first thing I changed was the starting word. There is nothing wrong with “tubes”, but “U” is much less common than “A” or “O” – and many times when it is used, it is probably more likely to be in position 3 or 4 of a four-letter word. Also, almost none of the Wordle solutions have been 4-letter words with an “S” tacked on to make it plural, so I was looking for something that replaces the “U” and moves the “S”.
My favorite solutions to this ended up being to make the start word “feast” or “beast”. I like the letters and the placement of the “east”, and I like having one slightly less common letter with the “F” or the “B” – otherwise, I would play “least”.
That being said, I almost never play more than two of my base words anymore. If I get letters correct and in the right place, I take a look at my remaining base words and see if any of them could be altered by swapping in what I know to be correct already. If I get letters that are in the wrong place, I basically do the same thing, but I can be more flexible about it.
Individual letter strategies
English is a language rich in words, words borrowed and snatched from many unsuspecting other languages, words that are crazy mutants of what they once were, and disagreements as to how things are actually spelled. Be aware, Wordle uses American English, so 6-letter words like “colour” and “favour” are spelled “color” and “favor”.
There are some general patterns, though, so here are some I think about.
A – least likely at the end of a word
E – least likely at the beginning of a word, very common way to end words. Often paired up “ea” or “ee”; remember the adage about “i before e”
I – Most likely in positions 2, 3, and 4
O – Less likely to begin or end a word; often paired “oa”, “oo”, “oi”, “ou”, or “ow”.
U – Almost never at the end of a word; rarely in the beginning except when word begins “un” or “uni”.
C – rarely at the end of a word; lots of words ending “ce”; often paired “ch”
H – if not beginning a word, almost always paired up with another consonant “ch”, “gh”, “ph”, “sh”, “th”, “wh” – AND the rarer “rh” (Wordle #411, for example) or “kh”.
J – Almost always starts the word
K – Often found in a “ck” combo
Q – Not a whole lot of 5-letter words that have a “q”. Almost all will have “qu” followed by another vowel. A couple borrowed words, mainly from Arabic, use a single “q” as a kind of gutteral “k” sound…
S – Very, very common letter, generally not used to make a four-letter word plural.
V – Will almost never end a word.
X – Often has a vowel on either side
Y – Mostly ends words, sometimes in an “ly” combination. A handful of words have “y” as their only vowel, eg myrrh, tryst (wordle #398), glyph, lymph, etc. Very easy tactic to trip the player up.
Z – Rare, but more common in American English than British English, however, probably doesn’t affect Wordle due to the 5-letter length of the words.