How To

Green Boxes Galore: How to Play Wordle and What It Is

Kelly Jensen


Kelly is a former librarian and a long-time blogger at STACKED. She's the editor/author of (DON'T) CALL ME CRAZY: 33 VOICES START THE CONVERSATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH and the editor/author of HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORLD. Her next book, BODY TALK, will publish in Fall 2020. Follow her on Instagram @heykellyjensen.

Have you seen daily posts from people you follow on social media that look like a bar graph made of green squares? Welcome to Wordle, the daily game taking the word nerd world by storm. But what is Wordle and how do you play it? What strategies help you decipher what the word of the day is when you’re facing five gray squares from the start? Let’s dive in.

What Is Wordle

Developed by Josh Wardle, a software engineer, Wordle is a daily word game initially created for his partner. The two of them loved word games and kept it between them, but because of how much they enjoyed it and the response they received from family who tried it, Wardle released the game to the internet in October. Wordle is, of course, a clever play in Wardle’s name.

According to the New York Times, 90 people played the once-a-day word game on November 1, 2021. As of Sunday, January 2, 2022, over 300,000 played.

This is a low-stakes, untimed word challenge that takes a similar setup to Mastermind. Its simplicity is what makes it appealing, as is the means by which anyone who plays can share their scores via social media.

How To Play

You can access Wordle online. It’s not an app and you need do nothing more than click over. Wordle offers one game per day, but because it is untimed, you can take as long as you’d like throughout the day to try your hand.

The game has six rows of five blank boxes, and to start, simply pick a five letter word and type it in. You can delete anything before you hit enter, and the game does not hold spelling against you — if you don’t enter the correct spelling of a word, it lets you know and you can try that turn again.

If you’ve guessed a letter correctly and it’s in the correct place for the day’s word, you’ll be given a green box. If you’ve guessed a letter correctly but it is not in the right place, it’ll turn yellow. Letters which do not appear in the word at all will remain grayed out.

You get six opportunities to try a full word, using the information you’ve gathered from earlier guesses. This is what those social media green bars indicate. In the one shared above, I did not guess any letters correctly on my first try. I had a correct letter in the wrong place in the second, followed by two correct letters and placements and a correct letter with an incorrect placement on the third try.

The fourth try was a complete success.

Wordle Strategies

There as many strategies for playing as there are words to play, so where do you start? You can keep it simple and guess whatever word comes to mind first. You can go for the Wheel of Fortune approach and utilize R S T L N E to begin. Or, you can try your hand at any of the strategies outlined in Mark M. Lie’s Medium piece. Note that if you click over to this, you might inadvertently get ideas that influence how you play in the future. For some that might be good. For me, I can’t stop thinking about one of them and how I need to consciously not try it.

Danielle Tcholakian tweeted out this week an inquiry for how folks were strategizing, and the responses — both those threaded and those quote-tweeted — make for fascinating reading, too.

The Ringer offers another dive into the history, influence, and indeed, strategies for winning Wordle.

More Word Games

One of the best and likely most frustrating elements of Wordle is that it’s limited to one word a day. That cuts down on impulse control, but it also means waiting for the next day’s game.

If you’re itching for more, why not check out the following, which include both digital and physical word nerdery fun: