The word game Wordle is shown on a mobile phone

Wordle’s Best Starting Words to Try Every Day

Hint: it's not xenon

Lately there’s been a lot of buzz about Wordle, the free online game in which you get six tries to guess a word using right and wrong letters as clues. Josh Wardle, the game’s creator, recently sold it to The New York Times, which has been hosting it since early February. That acquisition has sparked backlash as players claim that the game is now harder (turns out it’s not—the current word bank has been locked in for months) and worry that eventually they’ll have to pay for access (jury’s still out on that one). There have even been a bunch of spin-off and copycat games that have spawned to fill people’s Wordle needs. But if you’re in love with Wordle, you may be wondering: what are the best words to start with to maximize your chances of winning?

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To understand why that question is important, consider the mechanics of the game. You start off with a blank grid of 6 possible 5-letter words. Every time you guess a word, the game tells you how many letters your word has in common with the mystery word, and whether their placement is correct. If you don’t get it in 6 tries, you lose. Moreover, the game keeps track of how many guesses it takes you to get the right word. 4 guesses is generally considered par, and the more often you can get a word in 3 or even 2 guesses, the more impressive you are. This feature is what has led to a lot of the bragging and the colorful blocks you see on social media (enabled by the game’s handy share function, of course).

You can see why Wordle players consider it very, very important to start with a useful word right out of the gate. If you waste those first 1 or 2 slots on words that are duds, then not only have you squandered your chance to flex on Twitter, but you may even lose that day’s game! With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few of the words that will give you the best shot at a good score.

Strategy #1: Ruling Out Common Letters

One strategy is to rule out as many common letters as possible in your first word. The most common letter in the English language is E, so if that letter isn’t in Wordle’s word of the day—which it often isn’t—then you want to know that as soon as possible, since it’ll eliminate a ton of possibilities. After E, there are a few consonants that show up pretty regularly in English: R, T, N, and S. After that, A, I, and O are common vowels (no big surprise there, considering that English only has 5 and a half vowels total).

Good starting words will use as many of these letters as possible, since the chances are very good that at least 1 or 2 will be in the mystery word. If you go with this strategy, consider using words like earth, heart, rains, toads, store, grate, or train.

Words you don’t want to use are words that rely on less frequent letters. It’s true that the mystery word does often have rare letters—no one will ever forget the day the word was “knoll”—but you want to use the earlier guesses to lock in as many common letters as possible. Avoid words like quack or xenon.

Strategy #2: Nailing Down Those Vowels

Remember that every word is going to have at least one vowel in it, so figuring out those vowels as early as possible will always be a safe bet. Try using words with as many vowels as possible, like audio, adieu, ouija, and auloi (yes, that is an actual word, and yes, Wordle accepts it). Once you get your vowels squared away, you can focus on plugging in consonants around them.

Strategy #3: Coordinating Your First and Second Guesses

Unless you’re hell-bent on getting the Wordle in 2 guesses, you can look at your first two guesses as opportunities to rule out as many letters as possible before you seriously start trying to plug in the correct word. For example, you can use store for your first guess, and audio for your second (or vice versa), which will test a bunch of common consonants and all 5 vowels, while repeating only 1 letter.

Other Useful Words

Professor Barry Smyth of University College Dublin conducted an interesting experiment: he analyzed more than 3 million tweets from Wordle players who had won each day’s game, and found that the most successful starting words were tales, cones, and crate. This experiment doesn’t necessarily mean that these words will work for everyone, but they seem to have worked well for the players who based their strategies around them.

What’s your favorite Wordle starting word? Any strategies you’re dying to share? Let us know in the comments!

(image: Photo Illustration by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)


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Julia Glassman
Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at <a href="https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/">https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/.</a>