Government Uses Game Based Training to Improve Writing Skills in Employees
In 2010 President Obama signed the Plain Language Act. This act requires all federal agencies to use clear and effective language that the public can understand easily. The intent is for the government to stop using jargon and overly complex sentences that make it difficult for the everyday person to participate. The act lists no less than 30 specific rules and several other guidelines that are now required of government employees. Unfortunately the task of training them has been less than successful up to this point. Mike McClory, a professional working on writing training said “Five years later, only about one government employee in 10 has even heard of the law, and very few have participated in any meaningful plain writing training.” So McClory and his colleagues are introducing game based training in the skills of Plain Writing.
Write Smart has been around since 1983 and is a leader in the field of plain language training. They are currently in the process of rolling out their program to government employees. The employees have access to training videos that talk through and demonstrate the appropriate word placement. They also have access to several online games to help them practice the skills they are learning. Incidentally the company is redesigning the government website to use the terminology “word puzzles” rather than “games” because many government computers restrict access to games. However, the activities are identical.
The games all have a similar format and come in three levels. In all the games the object is to create a correct plain language sentence from a set of words. The words are labeled with parts of speech to help you with the puzzle as well as helping you discover the patterns in how sentences are built. In the first set of puzzles the goal is simply to put the words in the correct order. The second set of puzzles adds punctuation and the sentences become longer because they have two clauses to be potentially joined by punctuation. The final set of puzzles also includes the option of eliminating or changing words to make a higher quality sentence.
The main access point to the games is through the eBook (Write Smart by Mike McClory). At the end of each section there is a link to the next puzzle. In this way your reading becomes interactive and you not only get to practice what you just read but you get immediate feedback about your comprehension of the current topic. The eBook is available to the general public as well as government employees.
While the Plain Language Act is five years old, the gamification of the training process is brand new. The company is releasing videos, updating websites and publishing a new edition of the book all in the fall of 2015.
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