Word searches are a fun, relaxing, and challenging way to pass the time. They also provide a number of benefits (check out the benefits of doing puzzles). Let’s dive right into how to do a word search & learn several tips and tricks!
How to do a Word Search
Doing a word or number search isn’t complicated. Look at the search box and mark words (or number strings) as you find them. But here are three things you should consider:
Decide if you want to use the word list
This one only applies to word searches. If you’re doing a number search, you’ll definitely need to use the list!
Using the word list is much more common than ignoring it. But it’s not required.
There are a couple of benefits to choosing to use (or at least look at) the word list.
First, it helps you know what to look for. Second, it helps you avoid marking up your puzzle with a bunch of discovered words that aren’t on the list (especially short ones). Third, the word list can show you words or their variations.
If you want to search for any words you find and ignore the list, go right ahead.
Mark found words clearly
Mark all the words you find clearly. But make sure you’re not obscuring any letters because you might need them for more words!
Personally, I like to use highlighters in pale colors for word searches (these are my current favorites). But you can also circle words with pen, marker, or pencil.
Cross out the word list
Cross out (or highlight) words on the word list as you find them (unless you’re not using it).
You could also write a list of “bonus” words you find along the side.
Word Search Tips
Word search tips are just ideas and suggestions for things you can try to help you solve a puzzle. Try them out, use the ones that help you, and discard the rest!
Note: most of these tips apply to number search puzzles as well!
Scan the Puzzle
Before looking at the word list (if you’re going to use it), scan the puzzle and mark any words that jump out at you. Hold the puzzle at a distance, bring it closer, just scan around and look for words.
Not Just Right Side Up
During your scan, try flipping the puzzle around. Look at it upside down. Check on each side. This can help a few more words pop out at you!
Search Letter By Letter
Start at the top-left letter and move along each letter of the row, looking for horizontal words. Continue onto the next row, and the next, until you’ve completed a search of all the rows.
Then, start at the top-left letter and move along each letter of the column, looking for vertical words. Continue onto the next column, and the next, until you’ve completed a search of all the columns.
Searching by row and column should result in finding all of the horizontal and vertical words. You might even notice some diagonal ones along the way.
Alternatively, you can scan all the letters around every letter looking for horizontal, vertical, and diagonal words. This is a more thorough (but also more time-consuming) method.
It can be hard to keep your place if you’re something letter by letter (or for some of the other tips). Help yourself stay focused by using your finger or the tip of a pen/pencil/highlighter to help stop you from losing your place.
Stand Out Letters
Some letters just stand out more in a puzzle. Many people say that round letters are more visible to them (such as O and D). But whatever letters stand out to you are great ones to start with.
Find the Less Common
Check your word list for words with uncommon letters such as B, J, Q, X, and Z. These letters will stand out, there will probably be fewer of them in the puzzle, and the words will be easier to find.
Bonus: In English, the letter Q is almost always followed by a U so you can probably disregard any U-less Q.
Don’t Miss the Doubles
Another trick when doing a word search is to look for double letters.
Check your word list for words with double letters (TT, LL, EE, etc). Much like less common letters, these will stand out and have fewer, making the words easier to find.
Look for other parts of the word
You can search for words using more than just the first letter, uncommon letters, and doubles. You can use any part of the word. For example, you can search by ending (such as -ey, -ing, -er) or by letter combos that are found inside letters (like -ie-, -ea-).
Check Found Words
When you find a word, check each letter to see if it leads you to another word.
Search for Multiple Words
Don’t limit yourself to looking for just one word at a time.
A great idea is to combine some of the above tips to look for multiple words at once. For example, if your word list has two words with “LL”, look for them both at once. Look for 2, 3 or 4 words that start (or end) with the same letter(s) at once.
Make up Phrases
If you need a fun way to remember 3 or 4 words at a time, make up some phrases using those words. The stranger the sentence the more likely you are to remember the words while you’re searching.
No matter the difficulty or the tips and tricks you use, the most important thing is that you have fun doing word searches. So go forth and do a word search & have fun!
Did I miss your favorite puzzle tip or trick? Share it in the comments!