Wordle has now been popular for long enough that people have begun to unofficially separate themselves into different playing camps. There’s the hyper-competitive, uber-analytical subsect, whose members like to mine the internet for the latest winning strategy. Others have landed on a trusty opening word—maybe something vowel-heavy—and start every single game with it. And some word game lovers prefer to lead with whatever five-letter word pops into their head first, and then proceed through the grid with a blissful disregard for any sort of calculated approach.
Then, there are the ‘hard mode’ purists (and yes, it’s possible to identify yourself in more than one of these camps). If this is your first introduction to Wordle’s hard mode, let’s start with the basics: how to access it. In the upper right corner of your Wordle screen, tap the gear icon to open your settings menu. Switch on the ‘hard mode’ button, and you’re all set.
The menu also gives you a very brief overview of what hard mode actually is: “Any revealed hints must be used in subsequent guesses.” Here’s what that means.
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In regular mode, you can enter any five-letter word you want, regardless of your previous guesses. If you tried cough as your first word and for some reason wanted to enter it again as your second word, you technically could. Or, say cough was your first word, and only the h was yellow—the other four letters were gray. In order to reveal as many new letters as possible, you might omit the h from your second guess and go with five still-unknown letters.
Regular mode allows you to do this—in hard mode, you can’t. Any yellow or green letters you’ve already uncovered have to be used going forward. You can shift the yellow letters around, but the green ones (which you already have in the correct spots) must remain in place. On one hand, as Mashable points out, this can help you avoid mistakes. Maybe you forgot to work a yellow e into your forthcoming guess; whatever it is, hard mode will keep you from submitting it.
But it’s not called “hard mode” for nothing. If, for example, you start out with night, and -ight is all green, you can’t stuff a bunch of other consonants into your next word to narrow down what that first letter might be. You’ll just have to guess fight, sight, light, might, and so on, hoping that one will be correct before you exhaust all your guesses.
Some people play Wordle this way without actually having enabled hard mode (or even knowing it exists). If you’re one of them, you might want to turn it on just to save yourself from the occasional error of leaving out a known letter. But if you’d rather enjoy the no-holds-barred freedom of regular mode, that’s fine, too.