Network  Feb 21, 2002

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The Tome

A Guide to Writing Articles
  - by Jon Patch

Remember all those times you fell asleep in English Class and thought to yourself, “When am I ever going to use any of this?” And now you want to write an article? Yeah, well, Soupboy is here to help you out. And we’re not talking split infinitives or ending sentences with prepositions (which is a perfectly fine thing to do, according to the latest book I read). But you still want your article to be understood by your readers—otherwise what’s the point in writing? What follows is a basic framework to use when writing informal articles or essays.

First you need to have a purpose in writing. Why are you taking the time? There will be some underlying piece of information you desire your readers to take away from the article. That purpose can be anything from encouraging readers to play more Type I tournaments, to informing the reader of powerful new card combos. Even a tournament report has to have some purpose—even if it’s simply to say, “My Skies deck got torn apart by Sligh and I don’t understand how” or “I got in the Top 8.”

Once you have a purpose you need to consider your audience. Make sure your audience lines up with your purpose. Don’t write a general history of Magic aimed at Veteran players—they already know as much as they care to. And you’ll probably not want to write a Type II deck analysis aimed at newbies, unless the underlying goal is to encourage a simple deck type in the current environment. Use common sense and you’ll do all right.

If you’re writing for the Magic-ignorant, you’ll need to define the basic terms as you use them. If your goal is to help out intermediate or casual Magic players, avoid abbreviations for cards and explain complex concepts. You may even need to briefly describe specific deck concepts or card abilities depending on the specific article. If your target audience consists solely of veteran Magic players, feel free to mention obscure cards, abilities, and deck archtypes.

Once you’ve figured out why you’re writing and whom you’re writing for, spend five minutes and think through how you’re going to convey your thoughts. This will prevent disjointed paragraphs that lead nowhere. Make sure you have at least a minimal amount of coherence throughout the article; some sort of logical flow from one point to the next.

Finally, read your article all the way through before submitting it. You’ll find most of your own mistakes this way. Make sure you use some sort of spell check, at the very least. Copy and paste your article into Word (or write it directly in Word to begin with, as I do), and use the built-in spell check program. This takes under two minutes and will save you countless jibes of humiliation later. You’ll save the editors a bit of time, too. Don’t underestimate your friends, either. Have one of them glance over it to make sure it makes sense. If your friend has questions, good chance the rest of the on-line community will as well.

You’re putting your work on the web where literally millions of people have the opportunity to look at it. You want to present the most intelligent, well written article you can. No one is going to care if you have a few sentence fragments, and most will ignore minor grammatical errors. Readers understand the informality of the web. But make sure grammatical mistakes and choppy sentences don’t detract from the overall readability of the article. Otherwise you’ve not only wasted your time, but you’ve also made yourself look like an idiot.

Major grammatical mistakes to avoid: capitalize first words of sentences and proper names; do not type in all caps or all lower case; use punctuation where appropriate; avoid excessive slang; and finally, make sure to break your article into paragraphs.

Follow these simple steps and you’ll avoid the mocking section—when and if it reappears. And you’ll also be able to express your thoughts clearly and concisely to the rest of the Magic community. That’s what The Tome is all about, after all.

Good luck, and get writing!

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