Sunday, February 22, 2015

Quiz Writing

I've been working a lot on my quizzes lately. I actually just finished a 56-question quiz today! It may need to be cut down before I try to publish my quiz book, my friends will get to take the original 56-question version.

These are the guidelines I try to follow when writing quizzes:

1. Approach each quiz with the idea that every possible outcome is just as good as the others. I have seen some good quizzes out there that do have clear right and wrong answers, like quizzes about how to be a good friend, how to be trustworthy, and things like that. But I have also seen a lot of quizzes that push people to be more outgoing, adventurous, flexible, flirtatious, conscientious, achievement-striving, etc when some people have no interest in being these things. I can see myself writing some right-and-wrong quizzes about validation and consent-consciousness in my book about those topics, but for my quiz books, I want to emphasize each result being just as good as the others.

2. All advice given in the results section must accept who the person is and not push them to change. I cannot tell you how many quiz results I've read that are like, "Since you answered all A's, you should try to be more like B." I don't know why people think that my answering all A's would mean that I have any kind of desire to be something other than A.  My policy is to never advise someone to be something that they do not express an interest in on the quiz. All of my advice is based on what the person is, not what I think they should be. Sometimes I'll advise the reader on that they might enjoy doing B activities since they answered mostly B's. Sometimes I'll advise them on how to make themself happy and get by in the world as a person of their type. (For example: on my quiz about what kind of group project person you are, I advise people on who they should work with based on their type. I also advise people who don't like group projects on how they can avoid having to work with others by dividing the tasks among the group).

3. Create social desirability where it doesn't exist. It's not enough to make my results sound neutral. I want to make each description sound like a perfectly desirable way to be. This means especially saying lots of good things about personality types that are normally considered less desirable.

4. Don't confuse "would" with "should." I took this one quiz about healthy eating (I hate to use this one because I don't like telling people what to eat, but it's the best example I have), and about half of the questions were worded like, "When you're thirsty, what drink do you reach for?" and the other half was worded like, "Which of the following lunches is the healthiest?" These questions are inconsistent because the first one is about what you would actually do, and the second one is simply asking if you can correctly identify the healthiest lunch of the choices given, without asking anything about which one you would actually eat. This is a problem I've seen on a lot of quizzes, where the questions are worded in terms of what you "should" do or whether something is a "good idea," but results make it sound like you answered what you would actually do, rather than simply identifying the "correct"choice. From a writing standpoint, I find this really annoying, like a novel changing verb tense halfway through the book. From a personal standpoint, mixing up "would" and "should" bothers me because it assumes that everyone wants to do what they're supposed to do, and that if someone doesn't do what they're supposed to, it's because they are misguided or don't understand what's right and wrong. It doesn't allow room for people like me who understand exactly what is expected of us but just have no interest in doing it. All of my quizzes are clearly worded in terms of what you would do, not what you "should" do.

5. Don't assume the gender or sexual orientation of the readers. Almost every quiz book I own is written explicitly for heterosexual cisgender female people. There is absolutely no reason for this. I make sure that my questions are not gender-specific and also do not assume anything about who the reader wants to date. I say, "your significant other," or "the person you're attracted to," rather than assuming the gender and sexual orientation of the reader.

6. Don't use cultural references that everyone won't understand. I always find it annoying when quizzes ask questions that I can't answer like, "Which of these celebrities would you like to trade wardrobes with?" Everyone does not keep up with celebrity gossip and know who these people are and how they dress. It's also impractical to use such current gossip that no one will be able to answer these questions in a few years.

I didn't have all of these guidelines when I first began writing quizzes years ago, so I will have to go back and do some editing.

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