Wordle: starter words, hard mode and X/6 - how are Britons playing the hit game?

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
February 03, 2022, 7:56 AM GMT+0

YouGov quizzes 1,000 players of the hit word game

The game of the moment is Wordle, a simple pastime that gives players six chances to guess a five-letter word, providing clues based on whether they have guessed any correct letters and whether they are in the right place.

Wordle has made news all over the English-speaking world after skyrocketing in popularity at the beginning of the year. The game began simply as a private amusement made by New York-based software developer Josh Wardle for his partner, before releasing to the public in October. The game has since been bought by the New York Times for $1.7m.

Now a new YouGov Direct poll has asked more than 1,000 Wordle players about how they play the game.

One in twelve Wordle players get their fix at midnight

The fact that you can only play Wordle once per day has some enthusiastic fans clicking on to the website at the stroke of midnight in order to get their latest fix, leading to at least one meme on the subject. Our survey shows that this midnight club constitutes 8% of British players. A further 29% get their daily Wordle game in before work at 9am, while another 25% will have made their guesses before noon.

One in three players claim to have achieved a 2/6, while four in ten have seen the dreaded X/6

There is apparently a 1 in 2,500 chance of making a correct guess on your first go, although guides for how to cheat at Wordle suggest that those who claim to have done so should be treated with suspicion.

Just 3% of our players claim to have reached the mythical 1/6 score, but one in three (31%) claim to have got it in two. The most common top score is 3/6, with 49% saying this is their best to date.

While many Wordle players have achieved relative greatness with their guesses, four in ten (43%) have suffered the humiliation of seeing their sixth guess rejected.

Four in ten Wordle players use a starter word, with ADIEU being the most popular

In an attempt to give themselves the best odds, many players have concocted a ‘starter word’ that they always use as their first guess, generally consisting of as many vowels as possible but also common letters like R, S and/or T.

The results show that four in ten Wordle players (42%) are using a starter word, with ‘ADIEU’ being the most common, followed by ‘AUDIO’, ‘RAISE’, ‘STARE’ AND ‘TEARS’.

Sharing Wordle is less widespread than you might think from your Twitter timeline

Key to Wordle’s success has been the way in which players can share their results on social media. The innovative use of emoji to represent performance without giving the word away has seen Twitter swamped with posts containing grey, yellow and green blocks.

The results show that 35% of British players have posted their Wordle score to social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook at least once, with 12% doing so most days or every day. Nevertheless, two thirds have managed to keep their social feeds clear of their scores.

People are more likely to share their scores with friends, family and colleagues in messages and group chats, but even then half (51%) are not imposing their scores on their fellow man. One in four (23%) always or most times spread the word to their nearest and dearest.

One Wordle a day isn't enough for a quarter of players

One of the aspects of Wordle that some claim make it so appealing is the fact that it only provides one game per day. Many outlets have suggested this to be a ‘calming feature’ that is needed in these pandemic times. Allowing only one game per day prevents people from gorging on the game and then discarding it, instead keeping them coming back for more the next day.

Nevertheless, a sizeable minority of players want the rationing to end. One in four (24%) say that they want Wordle to start giving more than one game per day. Most of the remaining three quarters (72%) are happy to keep the scarcity going, however.

A quarter of Wordle players are using 'hard mode' in one way or another

Unbeknownst to many, Wordle has a ‘hard mode’ option that only allows players to guess words that contain letters they’ve already discovered. A quarter of users play the game in hard mode, 7% who do so officially using the function on the website, and a further 18% who informally enforce the rule themselves.

Many British Wordle players look set to still be caught out by use of American English

Wordle’s 12 January solution ‘FAVOR’ caused outcry among British players, many of whom had not realized that the game was using American English rather than British English. The fact that the Wordle website uses a .co.uk domain adds insult to injury in this case. The nation’s grief was so strong that it even made the news in the USA.

That Wordle uses American English will be a nasty surprise to 24% of players, for whom this news seems to have passed them by, and potentially for the 27% who are unsure as well.

Double letters bug a third of players

Wordle offers no indication that a word contains duplicate letters, to the dismay of many players on 13 January upon discovery of the double-b in ‘ABBEY’. Some have complained that there should be some sort of indication that a word is using a letter twice or more, a move which 29% of players want to see introduced. Some 6% would go further still, saying that Wordle shouldn’t use words that contain duplicate letters at all. Most (57%), however, are happy to keep the current rules.

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