Choosing your Words Carefully, and a Thing to Check Them With

Not long ago, XKCD writer Randall Monroe shared a thing to check words against his set of ten hundred most used words. I saw a chance to use it for game making. You can see it here:

How can this help game makers? Use it to make the words you use easier to understand. It is not about using fewer words, but using simple language when planning what you want to say. This makes you put your ideas in the simplest form possible. It is not always the right answer. There are some hard ideas that can be shared far more easily by using a big word. And some ideas in your game will be special words. It would be harder and more confusing to avoid those words in your writing. Don’t be afraid to use special words, when you want to say something special. (And, of course, the names of places, people, and other things will not usually be in the set of words you can use.)

Although, as far as I know, there has been no work done to prove this, it seems clear that using easy to understand words makes your writing easier to read, which means players spend less time reading your words and more time playing the game. And your writing will sound more like a conversation, which can make the player feel like a friend, instead of just a person who bought your game.

This reminds me of another piece I wanted to write, about trying to write everything to fit in the 140 spaces allowed by Twitter, for the same reasons. It forces you to make your ideas as clear and short as possible. The longer someone has to read, the greater the chance they will get confused, and lose the train of thought, so by the time they reach the end, they have to go back and check what the point made at the beginning was, that, oh, yes, it was that more words does not mean better.

Another good thing about using fewer and simpler words is that fewer words or letters helps when you try to save space on a card or a board. This leaves more room for art, or lets you make the pieces or cards smaller. And, if you want to use a picture in place of special words, simple words are easier to make into simple pictures, and simple pictures are easier to read and understand. For many, if not most, players, opening a game and seeing a wall of words is a good way to scare them off. (And small pictures have problems, too, when used too much) But careful choice of words and pictures makes a game more open to new players. Along with these, using simple words makes it easier to put into another language. There are a lot of games that are hard to learn, or cause problems during play because bad wording was chosen in the new language. Using simple words make it easier to go both directions into new languages.

So give this a try, let me know if it helps you. Simple words doesn’t have to mean simple ideas. And if done right, your readers may not notice at all. Did you?

  1. #1 by Robert J on September 24, 2015 - 3:16 pm

    TL:DR 😛

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