What is Wordle—And How to Win, According to an Expert

Wordle is the new viral trend at the top of your Twitter feed—here's everything you need to know.

Wordle is taking the internet by storm—and understandably so. If you haven’t played yet, be warned that it’s possible you’re about to get hopelessly addicted to this new online word game. There are so many brain games out there, such as word puzzles, rebus puzzles, and your average brain teaser, but there isn’t anything quite like Wordle. You may think that nailing Wordle requires only luck and pixie dust, but there are actually a few tips to keep in mind as you go—and we talked to a linguistics professor to get to the bottom of it. Get ready to get your game on.

What is Wordle?

Wordle is a free online game created by Brooklyn-based software developer Josh Wardle. He initially created the game for his word-game-loving girlfriend so she would have a new puzzle to solve every day. Wardle eventually introduced the game to his friends and family who became as addicted as so many people are now. Since November, daily traffic to the official Wordle site has exploded to around two million players per day.

How do you play Wordle, and what are the rules?

You can play the original Wordle on any web browser, although there are some dupes available on Apple and Google app stores. The object of the game is to guess the five-letter word of the day with only six tries. You start by choosing any five-letter word and typing it in. For each letter you guess correctly in the correct placement, the letter will turn green. If you guess a correct letter in the wrong place, the letter will turn orange. Any letters that you have already guessed that aren’t found in the word of the day will turn grey. To sum it up, you are aiming to guess the word by slowly eliminating letters. You may also want to try out these printable Sudoku puzzles if you want to exercise your brain muscles even more.

Can you play Wordle more than once a day?

While you certainly can (and likely will) get hooked, you can’t play Wordle more than once a day. Everyone has the same word each day so try not to spoil it for your friends (although we know it may be tempting). The new word is released every day at midnight.

What are some tips for playing Wordle and what is the best word to start Wordle?

Screenshot of Wordle Game, What Is Wordle And How To Win According To An Expert Graphicrd.com, via powerlanguage.co.uk

Let’s talk strategy. We spoke to Dr. George Aaron Broadwell, a professor of anthropology and Chair of Linguistics at University of Florida for some insights about the game. Broadwell claims that many strategies are based around letter frequency. If you count the frequency of letters within a text, you’ll notice that certain letters appear more often than others, but since we don’t know the text behind Wordle, players can only assume what the most frequent letters are based on what we already know about the English language.

“Any list of most frequent letters will probably include these letters in the top ten: E A R I O T N S,” explains Broadwell. “Many linguists play Wordle, and a common strategy among them is to choose an initial guess that includes all five of these most frequent letters, such as STONE, AROSE, or STORE.”

In Broadwell’s experience, this will typically reveal one or two correct letters, beginning the process of elimination.

“Beyond the question of letter frequency,” continues Broadwell, “there is also a question of which sequences of consonants and vowels are most frequent in English. For example, if C stands for any consonant and V for any vowel, then the five letters might be CVCVC (e.g.  MERIT, MANOR), CCVCV (e.g.  STONE, CHOSE), or VCCVC (e.g.  UPSET, ABBEY).”

While some patterns are more common than others, it may be helpful to keep these in mind when making your guesses.

Why is Wordle so popular?

Social psychologist and University of Florida professor Matt Baldwin explains why people have become so captivated with Wordle. “The moment at the end of the puzzle when the answer is revealed delivers what psychologists call a sudden influx of fluency—something we’re hard-wired to pursue,” he explains in a post on U of F’s news site. Regardless of whether or not you figure out the answer on your own, seeing the answer revealed at the end is satisfying for our brains.

If you’re an avid social media user, you also have likely seen people tweeting or posting about playing. This plays into the dynamic of peer pressure, as we are inclined to do what everyone else is doing in order to feel a social bond.

“Norms give us the ability to tune our attitudes, beliefs, and identities to that of other people in our group,” Baldwin says. “It gives us something to coalesce around and helps form a collective identity.”

Now that you have some Wordle tricks up your sleeve, test your smarts with these riddles for adults. And if you’re itching for more word games, take our Word Power quizzes to flex your vocabulary skills.

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Emma Taubenfeld
Emma Taubenfeld is an assistant editor for Reader’s Digest who focuses on digital lifestyle topics such as memes, social media captions, pick-up lines, and cute pets. When she’s not working, you can find Emma reading corny young adult novels, creating carefully curated playlists, and figuring out how to spice up boxed mac and cheese.