I appeared in an episode of “Mentioned in Dispatches” podcast over at the Armchair Dragoons where the topic was “Wargaming Rules Formats.” Our discussion there, especially with regards to rule book formats and proofreading, got me thinking about how my own blog is formatted.
I work in an organization that has a style guide for writing. The one in my office is a much shorter version than others I used in the past coming in at 26 pages. At a previous organization the style guide was 222 pages—a bit unwieldy. I try to create a consistent style in this blog, and in this post I am going to try and lay out some style specifics not only to help myself, but maybe to show others how just a bit of consistency can deliver a clearer message.
The style guide that follows is mostly just good grammar rules. My vainglorious hope here is that game publishers will look at this simple style guide and make a conscientious effort deliver a well formatted—and proofread—rule book or other written matter to players.
RMN Style Basics
Write all posts to be concise and clear enough for generalist gamers to understand quickly.
Write in a conversational tone. Avoid wording that you wouldn’t use in ordinary speech.
Organize posts in such a way that the audience can read straight through once and easily absorb key themes and takeaways.
Grab readers with compelling titles and state the bottom line up front (BLUF); do not put key conclusions in the body or at the end.
Structure posts so each piece of information that follows consistently points towards key themes.
Tell the reader only what they need to know. Don’t use posts to convey everything you know about a topic. Draft as though the audience will lose interest the longer the piece runs.
Keep sentences short (never more than 40 words and generally less than 30) and write in the active voice by choosing active verbs. Make actors rather than concepts the subjects of sentences whenever possible.
Use subheadings to break up text and as markers for each main point.
Justify any conclusions with cited evidence.
Include visuals to provide detail or orient readers. All visuals must tie directly to the text and add value for the reader by reinforcing main points.
Use bullets to provide evidence that supports argument; avoid making new argument in bullets. If you have only one bullet integrate it directly into the paragraph it is meant to support.
Avoid using the terms “we,” “us,” or “our” unless referring to wargamers.
Abbreviations and acronyms. Spell out for single reference. Spell out for first reference, adding the abbreviation or acronym in parentheses afterward, and use the acronym throughout the rest of the text.
Additional acronym guidance:
- Spell out United States as a noun; shorten to U.S. as an adjective. For example, “They agree with the United States on the need for more U.S. troops.”
- Do not use two-letter abbreviations.
- Do not abbreviate titles or names. Give full name and title on first use; thereafter use last name only.
Bolding. Do not use bolding or italics for emphasis. Write sentences in such a way so that the emphasis is clear without reliance on these markers. Bolding is used only for introducing bulleted lists items.
Bullets. Use a period after each bullet to include a bulleted list. Do not use “and” with semicolons. Bullets should be in chronological (or reverse chronological) order. Limit bullets to evidence and not arguments. Bolding can only be used at the beginning of bullets presenting a list (of games, concepts, etc.) The preceding paragraph language must clearly introduce the list.
Capitalization. For post titles and text boxes, capitalize words with four or more letters, as well as all nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. For subheadings, capitalize only the first letter of the first word and proper nouns. Titles before names are capitalized. Western and West are capitalized when referring to a geopolitical grouping, not the direction.
Citations. Use endnotes; include a superscript comma between numerals for multiple endnotes (e.g., 1,2); footnotes use the Chicago Manual of Style format. The Purdue Online Writing Lab offers a free citation generator.
Commas. Use the serial/Oxford comma.
Compound words. Two adjectives used before a noun (unit modifier) sometimes result in a compound (hyphenated) word (back-channel message, but missile defense radar).
Dates. Use Month and day (June 10 not 10 June). You do not need to include the year when discussing the current year. When referencing a decade, use digits—the 1970s (not the seventies, not ’70s). Never refer to the day of the week (e.g., Tuesday), provide an exact date instead.
Dice. Types of dice will be formatted as xdy where x=the number of dice, d is the abbreviation for dice, and y is the number of faces on the die. For example, to roll two six-sided die would be noted as 2d6.
Dice rolls. The results of a dice roll is formatted as [x] where x is the roll result. For example, a die roll of four is formatted as .
Em-Dash. Us an em-dash (—) for the following:
- As with commas or parentheses, to set off an interrupter in a sentence. If the interruption end then sentence, only one dash, at the beginning, sets off the material. When an interrupter occurs in a sentence, a set of dashes is required.
- For example, “The Kickstarter fulfilled in April—almost half a year later than projected.”
- Do not use an em-dash as a substitute for a semicolon simply to connect two independent clauses. Clauses connected by an em-dash should have a strong connection.
En-Dash. Use an en-dash (-) for the following:
- When connecting two parts of continuing or inclusive numbers, whether page references, dates, or times. When continuing numbers are joined in this manner, the range means “to and including” or “through.”
- Do not use an en-dash (or a hyphen) to replace to in “from x to y” or and in “between x and y.”
- To replace to in scores, directions, or results.
- The Americans won 145-90.
- The game ended in a 4-4 tie.
Endnotes. Use endnotes to cite all sources. Endnote markers should be at the end of the sentence where the information is used. They should not appear in the middle of a sentence or be grouped at the end of the paragraph. Separate endnote markers with a superscript comma.
- Use WordPress theme fonts and spacing as default.
- Single space after period.
- Normal paragraphs are “Align text left.”
- Quotation paragraphs are “Justified.”
- Background color is encouraged for text box.
Fractions. Use decimals when possible or spell out fractions with hyphens; express as a percentage; or one-in-five.
Game Titles. The following formatting rules apply to boardgame, roleplaying game, and wargame titles:
- Boardgame and roleplaying game titles are italicized (e.g., Terraforming Mars, or Traveller).
- Wargames titles are bold, italic (e.g., Harpoon V: Modern Tactical Naval Combat 1955-2020).
- Use full title plus subtitle along with designer/writer, publisher, and date of publication on first use (e.g., Carrier Battle: Philippine Sea, Jon Southard, Compass Games, 2022); thereafter use only short title (e.g., Carrier Battle).
Geographic names (regions, states, cities). All spellings must be consistent, with precedence given to spelling from subject game.
Hashtags. Social media hashtags are used only in the Jetpack social media message window.
Hyperlinks. The following rules apply to hyperlinked games:
- The precedence when hyperlinking a game is publisher’s site, crowd-funding campaign, and BoardGameGeek game page.
- When formatting select “Open in new tab.”
Italics. Italicize names of publications (including web site names), ships, and foreign words not in The Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Write sentences so the emphasis is clear without italics.
Nationalities. Follow CIA World Factbook.
Numbers. Spell out numbers zero through ten. Put a comma in numbers over three digits (1,000). One million and over should appear as a combination of digits and text (5.6 million). Spell out numbers at the beginning of a sentence (Ten million versus 10 million).
Parentheses. Keep to a minimum.
Percentages. Use digits with the percent sign (e.g., 4%, not 4 percent or four percent).
Possessives. Add an “s” to any single possessive. If the single noun already ends in an “s” (e.g., Honduras), use pronunciation guide for whether to add the “s” after the apostrophe. If you pronounce the possessive s, add it.
Punctuation. Place a comma between the penultimate and last item in a series of three or more (e.g., “France, China, and Iran agreed.”) See “Semicolon/colon” for additional information. There is one space after punctuation at the end of a sentence and after colons. Use an em-dash, or closed dash—no spaces around it—instead of two hyphens (option+shift+dash when using MacOs).
Quotations. Keep quotation marks to a minimum and use only for actual quotes. Write in such a way that the reader knows you are quoting a source document. Quotation paragraphs are formatted “Justified.”
Semicolon/colon. One space follows a semicolon or colon. Use semicolons to separate lists when one or more of the listed items contains a comma.
Slash. Do not use a slash as a replacement for the words “and” or “or.” It is acceptable if it is part of a formal naming convention, such as military weapon nomenclature.
Subheadings. A subheading should preview the topic of the upcoming section. Capitalize only the initial word and proper nouns. If using ellipsis at the end of your subtitle to indicate more to come, begin your next subtitle with ellipsis.
Tense sequence. The simple past tense requires a date; if the date is unknown, change from “the leaders declared their cooperation” to “the leaders have declared their cooperation.” If the sentence begins in the past tense, use conditional rather than future tense for what is supposed to happen. For example, “Moscow yesterday announced it would.” Do not use “it will.” If someone “has said,” you can use “will.”
Titles. In titles, capitalize words with four letters or more, as well as all nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs.
Usernames. Social media user names will follow given name (if known) and are hyperlinked when possible.
Words for games. The following is a list of proper (for this blog) spellings of certain game-related words:
- “countersheet” not “counter sheet”
- “game mechanisms” not “game mechanics”
- “hex & counter” not “hex and counter” or “hex-and-counter”
- “mapboard” not “map board”
- “roleplaying game” not “role playing game”
- “rule book” not “rulebook”
- “wargame” vs. “war game”
- A game will be listed as a “wargame” if it represents—in my opinion—a game focused on the first noun definition of “war” (“a state of usually open and declared armed hostile conflict between states or nations” or “a period of such armed conflict”) as defined by Merriam-Webster.
- A game will be listed as a “war game” (or, alternatively, simply as a boardgame) when in represents—again in my opinion—the second noun definition of “war” (“a state of hostility, conflict, or antagonism” or “a struggle or competition between opposing forces or for a particular end”) as defined by Merriam-Webster.
Feature image courtesy Pexels Free Photos
RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2023 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
3 thoughts on “Blog Report 23-4 – The RMN Blog Style Guide (Updated 230408)”
I probably ought to write out the ACD style guide instead of just keeping it all in my head and fixing as I edit, huh?
It would help 🤪
I sincerely hope that the publishers read your blog.