While the idea of noding homework is laudable, the idea that all homework can successfully be noded as is is less so.

Too often, the homework that is noded on E2 is dry, boring, and largely unreadable. Remember, you are writing for a wider audience here. Check Sensei's original piece right up there at the top: Clean it up, put in the HTML and node it.

How, then, can the humble homeworker turn that B+ grade piece of homework into an E2 node worthy of multiple chings and many upvotes?

Content aside, the first thing is to loosen up. Academic text is often written in the passive voice:

  • The story was written.
  • The experiment was done.
  • War was declared.

Science teachers tend to encourage this style of writing, because they like to perpetuate the myth that science is devoid of personal influence. That's total crap, of course, but the myth persists.

Journalists quickly learn to avoid the passive voice. If you want to keep your readers interested, then write in the active voice.

  • I wrote the story.
  • Ross did the experiment.
  • Bush declared war.

See how dramatically the flavour and spirit of those three simple sentences change when you switch from passive to active voice.

Second is to cut the sentence length. Another drawback of traditional academic writing is that the less able (or more pretentious) writers appear to think that long, complex sentences with many sub-clauses containing rarified language and esoteric words, present an image of intellectual superiority and thus enhance the reputation and image of the author among his or her peer group.

Let me re-phrase that. It is easy to grasp a complicated idea when it is presented in three or four short sentences. And more difficult to grasp the idea when it is presented in a single, multi-clause sentence.

If you have access to a grammar check utility*, then look at the average sentence length. Try to get the sentences down to an average length of 15 or 20 words. More than that and it gets hard to read. Fewer than that and the text can be disjointed. Also, try to vary the length of your sentences.

*Microsoft Word has a useful readability checker which can tell you how many words per sentence and characters per word, as well as giving a readability score. This whole WU scores as 14.9 words per sentence, and 4.5 letters per word, giving a readability score of 7.6. That means a 13-year-old should be able to read and understand it. To access this utility, go to "spelling and grammar"—"options" and check the box which says "show readability statistics".

On a similar note, look at average word length. Short words are better than excessively long ones. A good target is an average of 5 to 6 letters per word.

Third is to use footnotes and other techniques* to sustain the pace and direction of your argument. While it is good to explain and define your terms, many of your readers will want to follow your argument to its conclusion first, only later going back to clarify any side issues they may have misunderstood.

*Alternatively, since we are in HTML, use a hyperlink to offer the reader an explanation without forcing them to read it in the main flow of the argument.

Fourth, try to eliminate unnecessary verbiage. Cut it to the bone. Hack away at the piece and remove all unnecessary duplication. I can almost guarantee to cut out 30 to 50 percent of any article which crosses my desk, without affecting the meaning. This editing always makes the piece easier to read and more entertaining.

All these points are the basics of good writing. In most academic courses, editing your text to follow these guidelines will improve your grades.

Go the extra mile

If you want to get good rep scores on E2, then you need to do a little more. Among the most important is to do a series of searches on E2 to find most of the existing nodes relevant to your subject. Often checking the two (1 and 2) check boxes near the search field is a good idea. There will usually be two or three items which look as though they may be the ideal title for your writeup. Check these out, and look at the softlinks at the bottom as well.

Once you have an idea of the quality, size and titles of all the nodes relevant to your topic, you can decide the ones to which you want to make hardlinks. Also, you can choose which of the existing nodes is the best place for your new addition. If, and only if, there is no suitable existing node, then you can create your own node, but follow the advice in the perfect node and pick titles carefully.

Finally, use pipe links and hard links where appropriate. I believe that most E2 writeups do better if they use more pipelinks than hard links. It's a personal point, but well worth remembering.

Node your homework, but edit it first.