Some word searches might seem straightforward enough that you wouldn’t need a strategy in order to solve them. Other word searches are simply… puzzling! These word search strategies will help you to solve any word search puzzle.
Some of these strategies may be familiar to you, and some may work better for you than others. We’ll focus on how to scan the puzzle itself, and how to best use the word list. Once you have an in-depth understanding of these two strategies, learn how to make your own word searches to help you practice your solving technique.
Tips for Scanning the Word Search
When it comes to solving a word search, scanning the letters provides the most effective tool for finding the hidden words. But scanning without a strategy can lead to your eyes glazing over. Here are some effective scanning tips.
Scan each row.
By simply scanning each row from left to right you’ll find a fair amount of words. You can then scan each column from top to bottom to find the vertical words. especially if the word search has no diagonal words, you’ll already be pretty far along.
Seek out strange letters.
If you are using the word list right away, seek out words that have unique letters. Words with Q, X, J, or Z may be easier to find than searching for words by their vowels.
Focus on letters that stand out to you.
Similarly, if any particular letters stand out to you, start your search with words that contain those letters. Some people believe that round letters like O, Q, and D stand out more than others.
Search for letter pairs.
If any words contain double letters, scan the word search for two letters next to each other.
Check surrounding letters.
Once you found the first letter or a key letter in a word you’re searching for, check the letters around it to see if you should keep going. For example, if you have a word with Q in it, if there’s no U next to it, then you need to keep searching.
Scan with your finger.
To keep your focus within the puzzle, run your finger along each line. This way you won’t lose your place in the puzzle.
How Important is the Word List?
Many people base their word search solving strategy on the words in the word list. However, others feel the word list is hardly necessary. The importance of the word list depends on which solving strategies work best for you, but there are a few important uses of the word list.
First, the word list helps you to verify and confirm the words you are looking for. Once you find a word, circle or highlight it, then cross it off in the word list so you don’t search for something you already found. Furthermore, occasionally a word will sneak into a word search that is not on the list. You can mark it, but if you rely solely on scanning, you’ll end up with a bunch of “discovered” words and an incomplete puzzle!
The word list also helps you to see the bigger picture. Scanning the word search will help you to find those unique words, or may work better for detail-oriented people. By using the word list, you can view the puzzle from afar and see if that word jumps out at you.
Finally, the word list is important for words that have variations. For example, if you find the word “friend” in the puzzle, the word in the word list might actually be “friendship.” You’ll need the word list to verify that you’ve found the entire word.
Now that you have some strategies for solving word searches, why not try them out? Here’s a “Hard Word Puzzle” to get you started.
If you’d like a different kind of word search to test your skills, there’s no better way to ensure you have everything you want in a word search than to make your own.
Moving on to Making Word Searches
There are lots of word searches available for you to solve, starting right here at My Word Search. After solving quite a few, you’ll want to move on to making your own. That way you’ll have control over the difficulty of your word search, and can practice the word search strategies mentioned above.
When you use the word search maker at My Word Search, make these selections for maximum difficulty:
- Select a “Gigantic” puzzle to maximize the potential for your words to hide.
- Select the maximum amount of word directions so you’ll need to scan your word search forwards, backward, up, down, and diagonally.
- Choose words for your word list with no double letters, or letter pairs, which will require you to use other strategies.
You can, of course, alter these selections to lower the difficulty as well. You can also change the font, font size, and letter spacing according to your desires. Making your word search with a theme might also alter the difficulty or offer extra enjoyment.
Once you’ve made your word search, share it with friends and family online or printed out to see if you can stump them. If you do, share this article with them so they can use the word search strategies you’ve learned!
Word searches can be a lot of fun, and by using these strategies, you’ll maximize your solving potential. You’ll also feel more confident in your ability to solve any word search puzzle. Try these strategies out today with a word search from My Word Search. If you have a strategy we didn’t list, or if you’ve made a particularly difficult puzzle to solve, share it in the comments section.
Kristen Seikaly used her artistic background, research skills, and love for the internet to launch her first blog, Operaversity. Now she uses the skills to connect teachers, parents, and game enthusiasts with Crossword Hobbyist and My Word Search. She studied music at the University of Michigan, and now lives in Philadelphia.