Jumbled Letter Problems: Definition & Practice

Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

If you have an upcoming test and you know there are going to be jumbled letter problems, you may be wondering what they are exactly and what the best strategies are for solving them. Read on. We've got you covered.

Word Scrambles

Cna yuo raed thsi secenten? If you understand that question, you may already be a pro at unscrambling jumbled letters. A jumbled letter problem is a type of puzzle where the letters in a word or group of words are not in the correct order. For example, you might find the word water spelled like ''wtar.'' When they appear on tests or exams, your goal with these puzzles is to figure out the correct order of the words to form a correct sentence or correct word. Let's look at few examples and explore some strategies to tackle them.

Digraphs and Trigraphs

One of the first steps you can take for solving any word jumble is to make some observations without trying to guess the word. Ask yourself if there are any letters that may belong together. For example, the letters th, ch and sh are letter pairs that make a specific sound. A digraph is when two letters are combined to make one sound. So if we have the scrambled word ''dtrih'', you may notice the two letters ''th'' and that they might belong together. Next, we look at the remaining letters if ''th'' are removed. At this point, we are left with ''dri.'' Try combing ''th'' with each letter, one at a time, and see if any of them sound like they may be the word we are looking for. For example, do you think thd could be the beginning of a word? Most likely not. What about thr? Maybe. Let's check the next option ''Thi.'' This might work as well. So let's look at our two possibilities. If we think that thr belongs together, we are left with ''id.'' Our remaining combinations are ''thrid'' or ''thrdi.'' Neither of these are a word in the English language. Hm. Let's look at our other option - ''thi''. If we plug in our remaining letters we get third and thidr. 'Third' is a word while thidr is not.

Trigraphs are similiar to digraphs except there are three letters that make up a single sound. These might be a little trickier, but be on the lookout for dge (as in edge) tch (as in batch) and scr (as in scrap)


Another powerful tool for unscrambling word jumbles is recognizing common prefixes and suffixes. For example, if you keep in mind that -ion is a common suffix, you are more likely to pick it up when it appears in a word jumble. Take a look at this example - etpercfoin. If you see ''ion'' you can separate it from the rest of the jumble and see if the other letters give you any hints. So you might write or think something like this; (-ion) and (prcfeet). If you try moving the letters around for (prcfeet) you might see (prefcet) and realize that it could be ''perfect'' with your -ion suffix, you have ''perfection.'' Other common suffixes are -ence (as in violence) -ment (as in comment), -ish (as in selfish) and -able (as in stable).


If you can recognize prefixes in a word scramble, you will find them easier to solve. For example, if you keep in mind the prefix ''trans'' you might have an easier time solving a word scramble that reads ''trsnaefr.' If you recognize ''trans'' you are left with ''efr.'' If you swap the letters around one at a time so that you have ''transefr'' ''transfre'' and ''transfer'', you can easily see that ''transfer'' is the correct word. Some common examples of prefixes are ''sub'', ''com'', ''pre'' and ''ex.''

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