My Wordle Strategy

I do not claim to be the greatest Wordle player ever, though my stats are pretty good: 98% win and a max streak of 45 days. I’d like to say that after 45 days, I skipped a day over the holidays, which I did, but in fact, it did beat me once before that. Oh well…

By the way, this is just a fun post to get my blog restarted in the new year. Happy 2023! I promise to come back to more compelling topics like poetry and MFA applications soon. But maybe this is a post about poetry in a way, since my Wordle strategy is more about exercising my brain than about winning. I play the New York Time’s Wordle nearly every day, and then move on to Dordle (I choose the one at Zaratustra because it has fewer ads). From there, I do at least one, sometimes two Dutch versions to practice my Dutch, and then switch back to Quordle and sometimes a Dutch Quordle just for fun. Switching languages feels like a good mental trick.

My goal (in each language), besides winning, is to stretch myself to try new words, so I don’t use the common strategy of choosing the same first word every time. That would probably bore me. Instead, I try to use a different starting word every time, picking a word at random, usually one with five unique letters and at least two vowels. One goal is to use all five vowels (or six if you count ‘y’) in the first two or three words, though I don’t always do that, especially not in Wordle. In Dordle or Quordle, usually my first two or three words are chosen only to use letters and I don’t try to solve the puzzle until row three or four.

I like to think of the game as a strategy game. Rather than just trying to find the right word (the ultimate goal), I try to eliminate (and reveal) letters. That sometimes means guessing a word that I know will be wrong but will use some letters that I want to test. Nothing is more frustrating than trying a string of words where you have all but one or two of the letters, yet there are more possibilities than you can get right. Rather than trying ‘right’ and ‘fight’ and ‘might’ and ‘sight’ (and running out of room to try them all), it might be better to try ‘first’ to rule out or reveal the ‘r,’ ‘f,’ or ‘s’ as a correct letter. If none are in the answer word, then ‘might’ could be the correct choice.

I don’t always remember to do this strategy in time, but the goal is to look for letter combination patterns, try words that will reveal most of the letters, and then consider the options that could form words with the letters that haven’t been ruled out before making my final guesses. This might mean I take a guess that doesn’t work, so it might mean solving the puzzle in one more try than it would take if I guessed right initially, but it improves my odds of solving the puzzle at all, assuming there are more possible words than remaining rows of the Wordle and that I still have at least two guesses remaining so I can rule out some options.

Especially with the Dutch games, my main goal is to come up with valid words, so I’m not terribly dissatisfied when I lose (though my stats on Woordle aren’t a lot worse than on Wordle with 91% wins and a max streak of 26). Even on English, thinking about how letters could combine to form words and trying not to use the same letter in the same location of a word while trying out different letters for the ones I haven’t guessed right can be fun. And I try to remember that a letter can be used two or even three times in a a word, so I should check for doubled letters as I consider all the possibilities. All of this makes Wordle a fun distraction that jogs my memory and keeps my active vocabulary active. The one potential downside could be that I would start using more five-letter words in everyday speech. Thankfully, there’s always the Spelling Bee or other activities (like reading or writing) to keep longer and shorter words fresh in my mind!

Don’t take Wordle or any of its variants too seriously, in other words. Play them for the challenge (if you enjoy it). Play to win, but also play to play with words and letters.

Published by Kendall Dunkelberg

I am a poet, translator, and professor of literature and creative writing at Mississippi University for Women, where I direct the Low-Res MFA in Creative Writing, the undergraduate concentration in creative writing, and the Eudora Welty Writers' Symposium. I have published three books of poetry, Barrier Island Suite, Time Capsules, and Landscapes and Architectures, as well as a collection of translations of the Belgian poet Paul Snoek, Hercules, Richelieu, and Nostradamus. I live in Columbus with my wife, Kim Whitehead; son, Aidan; and dog, Aleida.

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