30 May 2019 | 33 Comments
In my first post-collegiate job, I worked as a project manager at a medical textbook publishing company. Technically I worked for a variety of publishing companies, and each company–and often different books within each company–used different style guides. Part of my job was ensuring that the authors, copyeditors, and proofreaders were using the correct style.
One of the perks of running my own publishing company now (albeit not a book publisher) is I can mix and match elements of different “official” styles that make the most sense to me. I’ve developed this “Stonemaier style” over the years, and recently I started compiling the various elements into a single guide that I can send to designers, copyeditors, and proofreaders.
Having a printed guide like this can save those people (and myself) quite a bit of time. Each stage of the process may not be perfect, but if the game designer at least tries to follow this guide, it leaves a lot fewer style-level mistakes for the copyeditor to fix, then even fewer for the proofreaders, and even fewer for me at every stage of the process.
So the core recommendation I’m trying to make today is that you have a written style guide. It may be vastly different than the Stonemaier style guide–we can still be friends even if you don’t believe in the serial comma.
If you want to start with our guide as a foundation, I’ve posted it below. It’s a work in progress, so I’m absolutely open to suggestions in the comments.
|Use the serial comma
|“Each player starts with a cube, a player mat, and a reference card.”|
|Hyphenate modifiers||“Give the first-player token to the person with the longest hair.”|
|Use numerals whenever possible (but not at the beginning of a sentence)||“Two workers on the same territory will harvest a total of 2 resources.”|
|Use numbered lists for sequential steps; use bulleted lists when order doesn’t matter. Use periods at the end of each step of the list that is a complete sentence; otherwise do not use periods at the end of each listed item.|
|Talk directly to a single player in active voice||“Whenever you gain resources, place them on your player mat.”|
|If third person is necessary, use “they” as gender-neutral singular, not “he” and “she.”|
|When referring to a different section of the rulebook, use the format: (see Gameplay)|
|When proofreading, keep space restrictions in mind when you make additions/revisions.||This is a reminder to proofreaders, as sometimes they’ll add a bunch of text in a place where there simply isn’t room.|
|Use double quotes, not single quotes. Periods and commas go inside quotes; semicolons and colons do not.||The term “building” refers to…|
|Do not mention terms before they are properly introduced (change the order if necessary).|
|Do not underline words and phrases. Bold is used to highlight words and terms; italics is used for examples and notes.|
|Remove all instances of “should” and highlight any instances of “except” and “remember.”||These are design cues—I try to avoid all rule exceptions, and I try not to require players to remember something that isn’t noted on the game’s interface (or at least a reference card).|
|When including instructions to the graphic designer, place them in brackets||[Insert graphic showing a province card sliding under a player mat.]|
|Use “gain,” not “take” when referring to a player earning something from the general supply.||“At the end of each round, gain $5.”|
|A “mat” is unique to a player. A “board” is available to all players.|
|Full sentences that follow a colon should start with a capital letter.||“Visiting the castle: If your character ends its movement on the castle, gain 2 VP.”|
|Spell out acronyms the first time they appear (and only the first time).||“There are several non-player characters (NPCs) like this in the game.”|
|Insert one space after a period or colon, not two.|
|When providing an example within a sentence, use “e.g.,” within parentheses.||“The player on your left can begin their turn while you’re finishing your turn (e.g., if you’re deciding which mech to deploy).”|
See here for more topics related specifically to tabletop game design.
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