This post has not been edited by the GamesBeat staff. Opinions by GamesBeat community writers do not necessarily reflect those of the staff.
Editor's note: In his most audacious writing challenge yet, Michael offers a more statistical approach toward improving your writing than usual. But that only makes sense since this one aims primarily to improve concision and cogency. -James
Bitmob writers want people to read their work. The whole point of posting articles on Bitmob — whether you’re planning on going pro or not — is to get more eyes on your writing. This means waging a personal war against every other distraction on the Internet that threatens to take your reader’s attention away from your work. An awful lot of clutter litters the battlefield, but with some effort, we can cut through the lines.
Most amateur game writers on the Web fail to engage their readers once they draw them in. They bury their ideas and opinions under mounds of deathless prose. They write to impress and not to inform. Some readers may be charitable in their reading habits, but a successful writer can’t expect the whole world to take the time to sift through overly verbose and flowery constructions just to find the point. That’s not to say that deep, complicated writing — especially when properly executed — has no place. But if you want to reach more people, you need a guiding light through the fog you may have inadvertently put up around your ideas.
The trick to engaging your readers is to make it as easy as possible for them to access and retain your ideas and opinions. This month’s Bitmob community writing prompt will focus on improving the readability of your work.
Simply put, readability is the ease with which your audience can get through your writing. Several factors, including content, design, structure, and style contribute to good readability. Since Chris Hoadley’s aims his challenges at helping writers come up with interesting content topics, I won’t touch on ideas with this challenge. We’re also going to ignore design since Bitmob already has an established format.
In my opinion, structure is one of the most important parts of writing for the Web, but the best way to handle it is often specific to the outlet, audience, and individual piece that you’re writing. So instead, we’re going to look at specific elements of style.
For help with improving your style, read the articles posted under the Bitmob Writing Tips tag. These articles cover just about everything you need to know to make your Bitmob articles as accessible and engaging as possible. They’ll help you find simpler and more effective ways to say what you’re trying to say.
Read them all? Think you’ve got it everything down? Then it's time to test what you’ve learned.
The goal is to take a piece of your writing and edit it to make it more readable. For this challenge, we’ll be using a number of readability tests to give you an idea of how accessible your writing is. While these tests aren’t 100-percent accurate and don’t take into account meaning and intent, they can be very useful in determining if your sentence, word, and paragraph length bog down your meaning. Ultimately, your piece should be engaging, so keep that in mind.
1) Write a piece between 500 and 800 words in length. The topic and format can be anything you choose, from a review to an op-ed piece. You can go higher than 800 if you want, but length contributes to accessibility, so a piece between 500-800 words is optimal for this challenge. You can also pick an old piece of similar length if you prefer.
2) Calculate the Flesch Reading Ease, Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level, and Gunning Fog Index ratings for your piece. You can use Word, Google Docs, and similar word processors to calculate the first two, but be sure to do the Gunning Fog test by hand at least three times and average your results to get the most accurate rating. List the results at the bottom of your piece.
3) On the second page of your entry, post a rewritten version of your original piece and take into account the scores you received previously. Shorten sentence, word, and paragraph length to help improve your readability while keeping the same voice. Try to aim for the following scores, given Bitmob’s average reader fluency:
- Flesch Reading Ease: >50.00
- Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level: 8.0 – 10.0
- Gunning Fog Index: <12.0
4) Calculate your updated scores and list them at the bottom of your rewritten piece.
5) Optional: Write a short reflection about the editing process and what you learned and attach it to the bottom of the second page.
6) Title your piece “Fog of War — (article name here)” and include the tag fog of war.
7) Post it to the Mobfeed!
Entries are due May 31, 2010. Once the challenge is complete, I’ll post a collection of all of the entries. Traditionally, these roundups do pretty well, so by participating, you’re most likely guaranteeing more page views and exposure for yourself.
Read my sample entry for an idea of how to proceed. Good luck, everybody! I’ll see you in the mists.