Wordle: An Exercise in the Value of Simplicity – by Dan Tapper
Simplicity. Such a valuable tool in public relations, in communications in general, and in getting an important message out that you need to not just be delivered, but understood.
Isn’t sheer simplicity of message something for which we all strive? It certainly is in the communications world, where the simplest messages are usually the most effective ones. If the message gets too complicated, it often gets discarded
I’ve been thinking about the virtues of simplicity lately when taking part in the latest fad sweeping much of the nation: Wordle. It is hard to exist in the social media world or a basic workplace and not know about Wordle, that daily exercise that allows us to show the strength of our five-letter-word vocabulary and, invariably, prove that we are smarter than our friends.
It has led to daily bragging rights on Facebook and Twitter, office competitions that pit employee against employee in (hopefully) friendly competition, as well as shining a worthwhile spotlight on society’s rare ability to keep a daily secret. And the truth is, it’s fun – for many, a great way to start the day and get the mind ready for the work tasks ahead.
This is why Wordle is so appealing to the public relations professional, who exists in a realm where the simple, easily understood message is everything. It is a letter-perfect example of the value of simplicity, something all of us long to achieve but aren’t always able to pull off.
Think about it. One puzzle a day, the same puzzle for everyone. Six chances to spell a five-letter word. All available in an easy, aesthetically pleasing format that itself is basic and pristine – a color scheme and graphic that has become instantly recognizable, stacks of green cubes that harken back to a mix of Tetris and Scrabble.
Wordle is not a video game that takes hours of playing time to master its nuances. It’s not even a daily crossword or Sudoku puzzle, which could take hours to complete (or not complete). It is the easiest of formats that is completed in mere minutes – one word, one puzzle per day. Whether Josh Wardle considered the sheer simplicity of it all when he created the game a few months ago, it doesn’t matter. Wordle works because the vast majority of adults and young adults can understand it and take part without consuming much time.
Simplicity of message has been at the center of good communication forever. That’s why when astronaut Gus Grissom toured plants in the 1960s that were designing the rockets and service modules that would eventually take us to and land on the moon, his message to the people building the machinery was so direct it was almost elementary: “Do good work.” Simple language. As when President Reagan and soon-to-be President Obama galvanized their bases – and later the masses – with phrases “It’s Morning in America” and “Yes we can,” respectively. Easy and unforgettable.
Wordle brings people a world of enjoyment (and sometimes heartbreak) a mere five letters at a time. With near military-like uniformity – one word per day for everyone, no exceptions – it invites us all in for a precious few minutes to share in something quick and easy. It succeeds on every level because – and here’s that word again – it’s simple. Like the best slogans, campaigns and messages, it’s the same for everyone, and relatable to a great mass of people. Mr. Wardle recently sold the game to the New York Times, but here’s hoping Wordle can remain unchanged and accessible for the long haul. Because it works.
After all, by most counts there are between 5,000-10,000 five-letter words in the English language, meaning we have a ways to go before we exhaust them all. So if Wordle can keep this format going, and we can all agree to continue keeping the daily secret, it will continue to work. And if it does, here’s a five-letter word we can offer to them: Bravo.