How Word Games Make You A Better Writer

How Word Games Make You A Better Writer

As writers, we always seek to improve our skills. That doesn’t have to be a chore. Word games are my secret weapon. They’re great at making you a better writer. Here’s how.

How Word Games Make You A Better Writer

Why Word Games?

Writing is a commitment, Most writers are dead serious about it. But that can also get in the way sometimes. When we sink our teeth so deep into our writing, things can become forced. Our brain cramps up. The result: stilted language, contrived ideas, or even total writer’s block. That’s when and why we need games.

To an extent, it doesn’t matter which game you use. Any game is fun and takes our minds off things. But why not make entertainment go that extra mile? Choose games that actively enhance your skills as a writer.

In general, any word game activates the same area in your brain that you need as a writer. That is important because these games then use the same neural pathways that your writing uses. But because they have a different approach, they also create new synapses (here’s how Scrabble improves your brain). It’s this effect that will make you a better writer.

There are more effects. To show you how this works, I’ve chosen these three games: Scrabble (by Hasbro in USA and Canada; by Mattel in all other countries), Wordle (by The New York Times), and Wordiply (by The Guardian). But there are many more out there. Let’s go through these three games and see what they can do for you as a writer.

Scrabble

This is a classic. According to Wikipedia, Scrabble exists in 40 languages and 121 countries. There are even clubs scrabbling all over the world! Playing the classic board game version helps you get away from your lonesome desk and enjoy the company of others. That alone is a benefit!

Be it the board game or the app version, Scrabble is all about finding words. The longer the better. You also score points for every letter. Certain letters and certain spaces on the board help you get a higher score.

Scrabble enriches your vocabulary, improves your focus, and makes you engage in tactics and strategy. You have to calculate your points to find out how high the score is placing the same 6-letter word this way or that way.

Because you compete against others, you push yourself to come up with better words, get more points, and finish first. Competition is an important element. Think about it this way:  that’s very much like what journalists do when they have to meet a deadline. And we know deadlines help us get the writing done (want to know how? Check out these challenges from Deadlines for Writers).

Wordle

Wordle was initially developed in 2021 by Josh Wardle and was soon bought by the New York Times. Unlike Scrabble, you play it on your own. The advantage is that you can play it anywhere but only once per day. You need to wait till the next day for a new Wordle to be set up.

Wordle asks you to find a mystery word. You know it always has five letters, and you have a maximum of six tries to guess it. That’s it. No clues. Wordle is clearly for the Sherlocks among us.

That’s where the magic starts. You need to develop strategies to find the mystery word. It helps to know which is the most common vowel in the English language. What are the most common combinations of letters? When ‘r’ is your fourth letter, for example, then it’s very likely to be ‘e’ at the end.

It’s the combination of linguistic strategies and diction that cracks this mystery. Wordle teaches you to come up with solutions that fit a very exact grid. This is helpful for poetry when you need to fit your words into a rhyme scheme.

Wordiply

Wordiply was invented by an editor of The Guardian in 2022. It’s different to Wordle in that there isn’t one correct answer.  Instead, you need to look for five words containing a given sequence of letters. The longer the words, the better. It’s less restrictive than Wordle.

Wordiply teaches you about the beginning, middle, and end of a word. Pre- and suffixes are important. For example, if the given combo of letters is ‘cane’, then possible solutions could be ‘buccaneering’ or ‘arcane.’

Think harder, and you develop strategies to make these words longer to get more points. Use linguistic strategies to change their form. Suddenly you have ‘buccaneering’ and ‘arcaneness.’ High score.

Again, it’s this strategy to make words longer or shorter that comes in very handy when you write texts where the syllable count is important. That’s most likely to be the case in some poetry but it can help with other forms, too.

Benefits For Writers

To sum up, word games are really gymnastics for your writer’s brain. They all have the following things in common:

  1. They activate a writer’s brain. They let you create even more synapses. They make you smarter.
  2. They enrich your vocabulary. A writer can never know too many words.
  3. They let you practice spelling. Better spelling means less proofreading.
  4. They teach you linguistic strategies. It’s like maths but without numbers. You learn to find creative solutions for language problems.
  5. They teach you about deadlines. Deadlines aren’t just about delivering at a certain date and time. You need to develop skills so that you can meet that deadline. These skills include speeding up your working process and dealing with stress. Games let you do this by encouraging competitiveness. They ask you to get more points, find the solution faster, or finish first.
  6. They are so much fun!

Cheating?

Every game also has a way to cheat. I won’t tell you which websites to use. Suffice it to say, that you can find websites that give you suggestions for 5-letter words (or any other length) containing certain letters in specific letter combinations. Voilà your solution.

If you just can’t get on before you crack this word game, then cheating can put you out of limbo. Here’s the beauty of it: Even if you cheat, you will reap all the benefits. To improve your vocabulary, it doesn’t matter where that word comes from. Either way, you have fun with words. Mission accomplished!

On To The Next Level

For me, words are a resource. It doesn’t matter if I’ve unearthed them during the writing process, or if they’ve come up in a word game. I always check if they can inspire me. I found out that word games make excellent prompts!

Here’s the result from one of my Wordle games.

Image: Susanne Bennett, 24 March 2023

Now if I were to use this, I imagine a witch who calls a troll to arise from his grave. He breaks through the groat with which his grave was sealed, wipes the froth off his mouth (the troll was poisoned, you see), and eats his grouts. After that, the troll and the witch take off on many adventures.

Not a great story yet, I know. But it’s the beginning. You can do the same with Wordiply. With Scrabble, you can even invite your fellow players to flex your writing muscles together!

The Last Word

I hope you love word games as much as I do. Word games may look like a diversion from writing but in truth, they’re building up writing muscle. So, scrabble your way to success! Wordiply your vocabulary! Wordle yourself into a whole new world of writing!

Susanne Bennett

By Susanne Bennett. Susanne  is a German-American writer who is a journalist by trade and a writer by heart. After years of working at German public radio and an online news portal, she has decided to accept challenges by Deadlines for Writers. Currently she is writing her first novel with them. She is known for overweight purses and carrying a novel everywhere. Follow her on Facebook.

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Posted on: 4th April 2023
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