Wordle: Best starting words and other expert tips from a linguist

There's one word that offers the most results in the fewest guesses
Person plays the popular Wordle game on their cellphone.
Photo credit Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — In case you live under a rock — nay, S-T-O-N-E — Wordle is one of the biggest trends right now.

Podcast Episode
KYW Newsradio In Depth
Expert Wordle tips from Villanova Linguist Dr. Grant Berry
Listen Now
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The daily word puzzle is simplistic with its yellow and green block design yet captures the zeitgeist in a way that gives us a sense of community — how many guesses did it take you today?

Players get six tries to guess the five-letter word of the day and share their progress on social media, creating a crazed inner circle of fandom.

Aside from the kinship, Wordle is also an addictive brain teaser. So, what are the best ways to approach the five-letter word in as few tries as possible? Linguist Dr. Grant Berry, an assistant professor at Villanova University, breaks it down.

Same word strategy

If you use the same-word-every-day strategy, you likely won’t get it on the first try, but it is a successful method that Berry said will increase the likelihood that you’ll come up with the word within fewer guesses.

“I personally start with the same word every time and try to be strategic about each guess that I use, to use the information that I get from previous guesses to help me narrow down what the word might be,” he said.

Take the classic “Wheel of Fortune” rules: The most common letters are R, S, T, L and E. A lot of Wordle players start there, Berry said, but he did some digging on the game’s software and learned the most common potential letters are S O, A, R and E.

He put them in that order for a reason.

“There’s one word in the English language that contains all of them, and it’s soare. It’s an archaic word meaning a young hawk — it’s totally obsolete. It’s not used in modern language. So if you start with that word, you're unlikely to get it in one shot,” he said. “But you are given the advantage of checking all of the most common letters at once.”

Clusters and sequences

Given that these are five-letter words, odds are there’s either going to be a sequence of vowels or a cluster of consonants.

According to Berry, the most common types of consonant clusters, known as resonant consonants, are R, L and H, which are more likely to be the second or fourth letter of the five.

“The idea is that things can become more vowel-like as you move toward the center of a syllable and less vowel-like as you move away from it,” he explained. “Using that, you can usually get it between two and four [guesses].”

Don’t knock the yellow blocks

The yellow blocks, indicating that the letter is in the word but in a different spot, really are crucial.

“Don’t neglect the positional information that you get,” said Berry. “That’s giving you an important piece of information. Well, two actually — one, that the letter is there, and two, that it’s not in that spot. So don’t put it there again in your additional guesses, if you can.”

Double letters exist!

Just because you nailed down a green letter doesn’t mean it has become obsolete. Double letters are a possibility, so don’t forget.

Berry said double vowels are typically O and E, while double consonants are P, T or C.

On this episode of KYW Newsradio In Depth, Berry also explains why Wordle blew up in popularity so quickly, and what The New York Times’ acquisition of the game means for the future of daily word puzzles. Listen below.

Podcast Episode
KYW Newsradio In Depth
Expert Wordle tips from Villanova Linguist Dr. Grant Berry
Listen Now
Now Playing
Now Playing

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images