Wordle can be a relaxing way to start your day with a little brain teaser — or a cutthroat competition to prove you’re the cleverest friend in your group text. For the latter type of player, keeping up to date on the latest Wordle strategies is almost as much a part of the daily routine as playing the game itself. You might think that a simple word guessing game with only five letters wouldn’t lend itself to intense strategizing, but mathematicians, computer programmers, and self-professed “former gifted kids” have all chimed in with tips to keep you from ever seeing the dreaded X/6 score again. The latest comes from a linguistics professor, who offers some advice that goes against the grain.
A lot of Wordle experts advise starting with words heavy on vowels, like QUERY, ADIEU, or RAISE. It makes sense on the surface. Every possible word will contain at least one vowel, and likely more than that. If you can figure out the vowels early, the thinking goes, you’ll have an easier time filling in the blanks.
But according to an interview in The Independent with Lynne Murphy, head of English language and linguistics at the University of Sussex, that strategy may be backwards. As Wordle-loving computer programmers and mathematicians have explained, a good Wordle guess is all about gathering information. If you know the right answer has an X in it, that gives you a tremendous amount of information, since there are so few words that include the letter. Knowing that a word has an A in it doesn’t help nearly as much; there are thousands of words that fit the bill.
So, Murphy says, the best way to get more information early on is to guess words with plenty of high-value consonants, rather than vowels. Because there are so many more possible consonants, narrowing down the right ones is far more informative than getting the vowels in place to start. You’re less likely to get multiple letters in the right spot with a single guess that way, but the letters you do hit will serve as a much better guide to the solution than knowing the right word contains an E (the most common letter in English).
If that sounds a little too vague to be helpful, Murphy’s advice doesn’t end there. Just as consonants give you more information than vowels, some consonants are more informative than others. Murphy suggests starting with words that include sonorant consonants (try saying that three times fast). Technically, these are letters that have a “continuing resonant sound,” like W, L, R, N, and M. It’s not their resonance that makes these letters good Wordle guesses; it’s the fact that they combine well with other consonants. So if your word has a T but not an R, you can quickly rule out a huge swath of possible answers, like TRUNK or TRACK.
That small tweak to your first Wordle guess could be enough to tip the scales in your favor, but Murphy has a few more words of wisdom. She says people who pay attention to the patterns in language tend to do better at Wordle, but warns that focusing on specific letter combinations rather than looking at the word as a whole can do more harm than good.
Finally, what may be Murphy’s most unconventional tip: don’t forget to have fun. Unlike systemized approaches to Wordle that suggest using the same starting word every day, Murphy likes to vary her first word each day. You could get tremendously lucky and hit the solution on your first guess, but more likely, it’ll just keep your daily Wordle routine from going stale. As much as it feels like a ritual, it is just a game, after all.