Welcome to the Heavyshelf Style Guide
The goal of the style guide is to help you create better content and to make the lives of our editors less stressful. It also ensures everything is consistent site-wide, something that can prove difficult when multiple writers and editors aren’t in the same room.
Heavyshelf’s aim is to provide gamers and game makers with the means to write about games in a way that is presentable and easily accessible. To help achieve this, we’ve broken our style guide down into four sections, each one building off of the previous.
This aspect of the style guide is the bare-bones essential information on how to operate WordPress, the content management system that Heavyshelf employs.
The beginner style guide covers the core of articles at Heavyshelf. This includes information on what types of articles you might want to write.
The intermediate style guide takes your writing to the next level, giving instruction on how to help with sentence structure and tone and create works that speak your voice.
The expert style guide is the last-step polishing station for any writer. It gets into the gritty details of grammar and syntax to serve as a reference and ensure your work is grammatically flawless.
As stated, each of these sections builds off of one another. If you jump straight to expert difficulty, you might write a correct article, but you’ll miss out on the core tenets of stylizing an article provided at the beginner level.
To read the Style Guide in full, scroll down. To read it by section, click the colored links above.
WordPress has a lot of buttons and features that are confusing or downright intimidating. When you go to write an article (by logging in and clicking the big red “WRITE” button shown below), it will automatically bring you to the WordPress writing page.
You are responsible for the title of the article, the text of the article, and providing images.
Writing Into WordPress
We strongly recommend that you write into WordPress directly, as it solves issues of formatting and how text displays on the website. If you draft text in another word processor, make sure you paste your text without formatting (i.e., as plain text) to prevent formatting issues.
Yoast SEO Readability
Heavyshelf uses a plugin that shows your articles current “Readability” through a number of helpful metrics. To find this tab, scroll far down on the WordPress editor. Generally, these readability tips are helpful to follow and improve writing quality, but it’s a program and not an artist. It’s always a good idea to refer to the Yoast SEO Readability tab and use it as a sort of rubric when reviewing your work.
Importing images into WordPress is as simple as dragging and dropping. When you select an image that you have imported, you can click the pencil icon (shown below) and edit the image details. When doing this, you can add a caption to your image and change the display setting. For display setting (image resolution), please select the “Full Size” preset. More on images is discussed in the Beginner difficulty guide.
Beginner Article Types
Articles naturally fall under a few different categories. At Heavyshelf, we follow general guidelines for each type.
Lists: This kind of article has the unique opportunity to be more than just a “Top 10 Shotguns in Videogames.” A list should be a curated collection of items, each discussed just enough, that together speaks towards a greater theme or concept in gaming. Use the numeric first-to-last categorization of lists as an opportunity to make an argument about something rather than just talk about what you do and don’t like in games.
Game Preview (Early Access/Beta): A mix between a review and a first impression, this is an article that covers a game that is “subject to change,” so-to-speak. These types of articles require a familiarity with the game, but the game can’t yet be released (or else the article would be a review or first impression). It’s best for these kinds of game previews to be written and published when an early access title hits a bump of popularity, but people are always looking for gems-in-the-rough, so don’t get too caught up in the timing.
For a game preview, you’re trying to convey the game in terms of “worth playing” rather than “worth the cost.” The game is an unfinished experience — should the reader bother with it now? Check back in a few months?
First Impression: This is an article that gives an early assessment of a game following at least 4 hours of gameplay, but still less than half of what the game has to offer (so, no 4 hour “first impression” of The Order: 1886). It’s best for first impressions to be written and published 3-5 days after the release of the game.
For a first impression, be honest about the gameplay experience. Are you excited to pick it back up and finish it, or is it becoming a bit of a drag? Imagine that you’re talking about the game to a friend over the course of a 5-minute bus ride. A first impression should serve as an early indication of whether this game will be a hit or an embarrassment.
Crediting the Dev Team
For Game Previews and First Impressions (and Reviews, covered in the Intermediate section), you should always remember to credit the developer and the publisher in the first line of every article. Copy and paste the following (everything within the quotes, but not the quotes themselves):
“[Developer: Developer Name | Publisher: Publisher Name]”
We do this for a few reasons. First, it gives credit where credit is due (after all, the purpose of these types of articles is to assess someone’s creation). Importantly, it also helps readers build and understanding of specific developers and publishers, adding to the value of the articles. As a cherry-on-top, it also sounds professional.
Maybe you’re writing a different kind of article and you want to credit the dev team still. Here’s the rule of thumb: If you’re talking about a single, specific game to talk about it’s quality and characteristics, credit the dev team. If you’re talking about a single, specific game as a case study for a larger topic in games (e.g., using Bioshock to talk about mixing fantasy and more modern settings), don’t credit the dev team: the article is about something more than that one game.
A Note on Profanity
Colorful language is generally accepted on Heavyshelf, but editors reserve the right to tone down language that comes off as excessive. As a general rule, use profanity when natural and earnest.
Writing a Title
Your title is the face of your article. It’s what entices people to read, so make it good. Don’t write up a “draft title” that you know you’re going to change later, as it causes some trouble on the back end. Keep a title short and punchy, with enough value that a reader could guess what they might get out of it.
Article length is an art more than a science. It’s better to break these length guidelines than it is to write poorly in hopes of meeting them. Often times, if you write too much, an editor will come in and cut the fat, so don’t worry.
If you’re writing a short news update article or a very brief review, you’re looking at 200-500 words. There aren’t many instances where a length this short will be needed.
If you’re writing a standard review or any other intermediate-length article, where you need a bit more to say what you need to say (this is almost all article types), you’re looking at 500-1,000 words. A happy maximum for these kinds of articles is 1,500 words — beyond this, things start to drag.
If you’re writing an epic dissection or dissertation on game design theory, or some other magnum opus, be as long as you need without being downright exhausting. Excessively long articles can take a long time to edit, and editors will not review or publish any work longer than 5,000 words.
Formatting Your Article
Your paragraphs should be 4-6 sentences long, roughly 50-100 words.
Subheadings are an essential way of breaking apart your article and making it more readable. You should use a subheading every 2-4 paragraphs. For subheadings, use Heading 2 in WordPress.
Bullet points are the go-to way of organizing information into lists. They aren’t going to be too common in writing, so it’s important not to overuse them. Only use bullet points for single sentences and less.
Images are a great way to bring life to an article, but they can also be a bit tricky. Each article, depending on length, needs 1-4 images (more images for a longer article). Space these out like you would subheadings: don’t saturate one portion and leave another without a single picture.
When uploading images, you must ensure that the image is either a press kit image (just search the title of the game followed by “press kit” and click one of the igdb.com links) or screenshots that you take in game.
If you use a screenshot from a video (i.e. a screenshot from an E3 presentation), you need to follow specific steps. Drag and drop the image as usual, then click on the image to get the Alignment and Edit menu popup. Click the Edit menu option. Select Advanced Options at the bottom, and insert the hyperlink of the source video in the “Image Title Attribute” section. After doing this, select the image in the article, and choose “Insert/Edit Link” from the toolbar above, then insert the hyperlink of the source video again in the box provided.
Image captions are a chance to add some personal flair to the article, but it’s better to have no caption than to restate something you’ve already said.
The “featured image” is the cover image that appears on the front of the website and at the top of the article. Featured images are fairly tricky. If you have a particular image that you would like as the featured image, ensure that the dimensions are exactly 1920×1080. You’ll find a “featured image” section along the right-hand sidebar of the word press site: this is where you can upload your image.
Please note that Heavyshelf editors reserve the right to adjust the featured image and create featured images if the image provided does not meet our requirements or no image is provided.
Formatting Game Titles and Features
Game titles are Italicized and Capitalized. Only capitalize what the game capitalizes (e.g. SUPERHOT is correct, while Superhot is not). The easiest way to make sure you’re doing this right is to check on Steam or another storefront. Do not italicize the titles of companies: just Capitalize.
Flying in the face of what conventional grammar rules state, keep your game titles italicized even if it is in an italicized section of text (such as an image caption). It’s easier to read.
When referencing specific buttons, menu options, or features within a game, Capitalize and, sometimes in addition, “Use Quotations.” Quotation marks are particularly handy if the name of the game option could still disrupt the reading flow when capitalized.
Intermediate Article Types
Review: This is an article that gives a recommendation for a game following completion of the main story, or a majority of the content in the core gameplay loop. It’s best for reviews to be written and published 7-10 days after the release of the game: any later than that, and the article loses its impact, lost in a sea of other reviews people have already read.
For a review, go in depth, but don’t lose yourself in the details. Cover all the game has to offer, not just what you like to talk about. What makes this game fun or boring? What interested you? The best thing a review can do is leave a reader with confidence in their decision to buy or not buy a game.
With reviews, as with game previews and first impressions, credit the dev team. If you don’t know how to do that, go re-read the Beginner section.
Editorial: This kind of article is essentially an opinion piece, but it’s also a bit more than that. These are your views on something, but not just surface-level “I didn’t like it.” Editorials are an opportunity to present a unique, strong perspective that you have about a game. It is important that discussion about the game stays about the game. Discussing the political and religious circumstances in Skyrim is appropriate so long as the discussion doesn’t drift into real-world politics and religious circumstances. Do not attempt to covertly insert politics into an article. Articles that violate this rule will be removed and the account of the author will be deleted.
Varying Sentence Structure
Crafting sentences involves knowing when to mix things up and when to stay this same. This is a short sentence. It sounds alright. Do you feel the change? It’s starting to drag. Now it sounds bad. too many short ones.
At the same time, you should avoid run-on sentences and sentences that just overstay their welcome, even if it feels like a sentence should be really long, there’s no reason for it to go as long as this one.
There’s a happy balance to strike between using long sentences, medium-length ones, and short ones. Advanced punctuation marks, such as parentheses, semicolons, and emdashes (covered in the Expert Difficulty section) can also modulate how a section reads. It’s hard to strike a flow, but it’s important to try!
Finally, in almost all circumstances, you should not start a sentence with the words “But” or “And.” It reads like a fractured thought or an incomplete idea, so avoid it! Don’t introduce them at the start of a sentence, but do use them to vary the pacing.
Introductions and Conclusions
The introduction and conclusion are two of the most important paragraphs of any article. The introduction is used to convince the reader that the article will be worth their time. It’s for the people who will actually read. The conclusion is used to make the article stay with the reader, wrapping up everything they read (or skimmed) in a way that is satisfying.
For the introduction, think about what might make an interesting tweet for an article. Don’t go for clickbait nonsense — the reader already clicked. Breakdown why the topic interests you, what you plan to talk about, or why you think it’s valuable. You might do that with an anecdote, a simple introduction to the nature of the game, or something a bit more dry and straightforward. From reading an introduction paragraph, the reader gets an idea of where they’re headed and a taste for your writing style. When writing an introduction paragraph, do not create a header reading “Introduction.”
For the conclusion, you want a paragraph that wraps everything up without sounding clinical or procedural. Be assertive and concrete about what you talk about — nobody wants to read an article from an author who isn’t confident in their own work. By reading the conclusion, your reader should feel like they could confidently give your views on the matter to someone else. If after reading your article, your reader doesn’t quite know what they were supposed to get out of it, you need a stronger conclusion (and maybe you’ll have to beef up your article).
If you’re writing an article that closely relates to another we have on the site, consider a hyperlink either within text or in a sentence at the bottom of the page. This is particularly useful if you’re linking to a past entry in a series, a review of a previous game in the franchise, an article that makes a contrasting argument, etc. Avoid hyperlinks in your introduction — you don’t want distractions. Hyperlinks encourage and support other authors, but don’t use them carelessly.
Quotes are tricky but helpful for building your credibility with the reader. The first rule of using quotations is to make sure your reader knows who you’re quoting. At some point before or very soon after the quote, you’re reader needs to see who said the quote and in what context (in an interview, on the E3 stage, etc.). Besides this, Most of the difficulty with quotes comes from punctuation, so follow this rule:
When splicing-in the phrase, punctuation stays. When a quote you talk about, punctuation’s out.
That rule is good, but it’s best with another, even simpler rule:
Commas and periods stay inside the quotes.
Here’s an example of “splicing-in the phrase,” which is when you’re integrating a quote into the rest of the sentence as if it belongs. It is italicized to avoid using additional quotes in a section about how to use quotes.
If you find yourself asking: “What’s the point of this article?” then rework the conclusion! That’s “the point of this article.”
Note that the first quoted section starts with a capital letter (because the quoted material was quoted in its entirety, not fragmented), but the second section doesn’t (because the quote is a fragment of the full section). Essentially,
Here’s an example of “when a quote you talk about,” which is when someone else’s quote finds itself subject to your commentary.
I couldn’t believe the “very difficult tutorial”: it was a single crouch jump. Did the author find Go Fish to be “very difficult”?
Note that the colon (:) and the question mark are positioned outside of the quotes: this is because they are not in the quoted sentence originally. In the prior example, the question mark stays inside the quotes, because they are in the quoted sentence originally.
When using quotes within quotes, you’ll use single quotation marks. Here’s an example below.
I understand why Moose said “I think ‘On A Rail’ was my favorite chapter,” but I just can’t get enough of ‘Surface Tension.’”
Note that chapter titles — as with those from the Half-Life reference above — are quoted, not italicized.
Finally, if you know how to use [sic], don’t use it. Some readers won’t know what it means and it sounds a bit too high-brow.
Quotes in Headings and Block Quotes
If you have any heading where you might use quotes, using single quotes instead. Single quotes are minimalistic and less imposing for headings.
If you want a quote to stand on it’s own, being more noticeable and completely free of editing, you should use block quotes for it. Word press has many options for block quotes, so it’s important to follow these steps exactly.
- Click on the “Toolbar Toggle” next to the Insert Read more tag.
- Click “Formats” on the left then hover over quotes.
- Click Quote box center.
- Then Align left.
One or 1? Two or 2? It’s important to stay consistent with spelling out numbers versus using numerals. We recommend this general rule:
When referring to units of measurement (HP, ammo, price, active players, units sold), use numerals. When referring to any other number that is less than 101, spell it out.
In addition to this rule, there’s another handy one:
Large round numbers (two hundred, four million, seven thousand) are often better spelled-out.
Finally, if you aren’t sure what to do: the less intrusive, the better. If you think there’s a dramatic flair to saying “Final Fantasy will soon be on it’s five-hundred-seventy-thousandth entry…” then do so! But don’t spell Fallout 4 as Fallout Four; **that’s just incorrect.
Subject-verb agreement is making sure that your verbs connect grammatically with your subject. Consider the following sentence: “He run to the objective to capture it.” This sentence is incorrect. It could be made correct two different ways:
- “They run to the objective to capture it.”
- “He runs to the objective to capture it.”
This is subject-verb agreement. It is common with whether or not you use “is” or “are” in a sentence. Take the following example: “This weapon specifically, along with the various upgrades you can find, (is/are) too expensive to bother with.” A little trickier, right? The correct option: use “is.”
To see if you have a subject-verb agreement problem, imagine what the sentence would look like without additional phrases. Our example sentence would be: “This weapon specifically (is/are) too expensive to bother with.” A lot easier. If you’re still not sure, envision the subject with a pronoun instead of a noun. Our example sentence then becomes: “It specifically (is/are) too expensive to bother with.” With this trick, it’s easy to re-read a sentence and find out if a change is needed.
There are many rules in English that are hard to learn. Here’s a list of things that are commonly done wrong.
Its = possessive (“Its strengths are…”)
It’s = It is (“It’s not a great game…”)
There = location (“He was over there…”)
Their = possessive (“Their accuracy is okay…”)
They’re = They are (“They’re good to have, but…”)
Your = possessive (“Your best asset in this…”)
You’re = You are (You’re a paladin, so…”)
“Since” indicates time after (“Ever since the release of the DLC…”)
“Sense” indicates perception (“I could sense an embarrassing release, but…”)
“A lot” is two words that indicate a large quantity. “Alot” is not a word. “Allot” is a verb meaning to allocate.
Expert Article Types
Guide: This is essentially a how-to article. If you would like to write a guide, you need two things. First, you need to know the game. Second, we ask that you first speak to a Heavyshelf editor so we can ensure the guide meets reader expectations (no “how to open a door” articles here).
Series: A series is a recurring editorial. Series require consistent entries about a specific topic, and as such are investments. As with guides, we ask that you first speak to a Heavyshelf editor before starting a series, that way we can have a conversation about expectations and delivery of each entry.
Working With Tone
Tone is very easy to get wrong, so it’s important to understand. Two of the most common issues in tone are writing as if the reader is an alien and writing as if you have no confidence. Let’s look at each.
When talking about a game, remember that you’re on a gaming website, and gamers will read what you write. Unless your article is about point-scoring mechanics in games, you don’t need to explain to readers why scoring points is important in a particular game. Assume that your reader knows the basics.
At the same time, some games have niche jargon that is “basic” for the game, but not for gamers. In Halo, “bloom” refers to growing weapon inaccuracy with successive shots. In most games, it’s a lighting option. Try to strike common ground by using “universal” language and explain what needs to be explained.
Finally, avoid overuse of “casualties.” Words like “sort of,” “kind of,” “just,” and “only” can make your sentence sound less concrete and your writing sound like it lacks confidence (e.g. “It sort of helps define the setting…”). Instead, if the situation permits, try to find confident words that have the same effect (e.g. “It loosely helps define the setting, but its overall purpose is questionable”). Another example: “It just makes the game feel bland” could read “Simply, it makes the game feel bland.”
Contractions aren’t a bad thing. They’re casual and don’t isolate the reader in an academic sense, so use them when being casual. At the same time, do not use contractions when you want to provide clarity and emphasis.
Bold is particularly acceptable for drawing attention to specific items in a sequence or list, but when overused they can feel comical and generally become ineffective (see what I mean?). Most times, in casual writing, italics read smoother.
Paragraphs Make Progress
Every paragraph you write needs to work towards conveying information. If a paragraph starts with a point and ends without elaborating the point any better, you need to change it. Each paragraph must make progress, both across the whole work and within itself. Read the following example paragraph and see if it needs changing from a progress-perspective:
“Then we get to the score. The music for the game is, well, O.K. at best. My problem with it is that it’s just too repetitive. We all enjoy memorable boss music — who can forget ‘Megalovania’ — but there’s no equivalent here. The soundtrack serves its purpose in a bare-minimum way. Every boss fight has the same pacing, instrumentation, and sometimes repeated melody, even with the bosses being very different stylistically. I don’t know if they couldn’t find a good composer, or picked a first-time composer, or just ran out of money, but a change of pace would have been greatly appreciated. Sometimes, I found myself playing my own music in the background, which detracted from the immersion but at least made it less boring.”
If you thought to yourself “This probably could have been a single sentence,” then you’re right. The above paragraph makes no substantial progress. It effectively says “the score is repetitive” in a number of creative ways. When in this situation, reach out. How does the repetitive score impact the immersion? Cheapen the setting? Clash with the gameplay? If the score is so repetitive that it’s just that bad, say it upfront. If this is the case, you may write: “The score is atrocious, repetitive, and grating. For the best experience, play with the music off.” In two simple sentences, it’s clear that the score is repetitive and shockingly bad.
I.e. is Latin for “id est” and is used when providing a clarification.
E.g. is Latin for “exempli gratia” and is used when provided an example.
Capitalize them if they start a sentence, but other than that, leave them lowercase. They are capitalized in the title of this section because they look nice that way, but in the middle of a text (E.G. right here), they stand out awkwardly when in all-caps.
Use “double dashes” — or an emdash — for breaking up a sentence with interjections, introducing parenthetical information without using parentheses — it works in a lot of places (as you can see). It’s important not to overuse these, though, because they disrupt reading flow. A little bit of disruption is okay, but too much is downright hard to read.
You might also use an endash/hyphen in your writing (-). Technically these are separate punctuation marks, but don’t bother with the difference. Only use these when the words you are “dashing” act as adjectives before/after a noun or make a connection between the words in a phrase-like manner. If you use them, these acting-as-adjective phrases may help improve readability. Don’t use it for adjectives that are two words (i.e. light purple, dark green).
Okay, this last note about dashes you really shouldn’t need, but if you ever write and your super⸗long-dash-monster is broken by a line, you should technically use a double-hyphen (⸗) BUT! We don’t do this. The double-hyphen is too rare of a mark to look correct for readers, so ignore the grammar and use a standard hyphen. Better yet, avoid having hyphens span line-breaks.
Semicolons (;) and Colons (:)
A semicolon is usually used when you have a complete sentence; you can string two complete sentences together with a semicolon.
As a word of wisdom: use colons to introduce a point in an interesting way. Alternatively, you can use it as a strong reveal: the colon.
Don’t worry; splitting a sentence can use either.
Don’t worry: splitting a sentence can use either.
In the above two sentences, notice the tonal difference between the semicolon and the colon. The colon has a greater dramatic effect, which might be awkward in some situations.
Tagging Your Article
The following guidelines relate specifically to tagging. Use your intuition and don’t follow these rules too strictly.
- Capitalize your tags.
- You should have 3-6 tags. Do not have more than 6!
- Tag the name of the game, just once, if applicable.
- If your article is part of a series of articles, tag the series! If it’s generic, tag the article type (e.g. “Review,” “First Impression,” “Editorial”).
- If you’re talking about “gaming” in general, tag it specifically: Gaming Culture, Gaming History, Game Criticism.
- If you’re talking about game design, both tag “Game Design” and be a little more specific: Gameplay Design, Narrative Design, Sound Design, Character Design, Level Design, Art Design.
- Tag one of: Singleplayer, Multiplayer, Co-op, Couch Co-op, Party Game — if you think it matters. For example, if you talk about how the game is great with friends, maybe consider adding Co-op or Multiplayer as a tag. If you call it a “great solo game,” tag Singleplayer.
- If applicable, tag the primary platform of the game (i.e. PC Games, Xbox Games) or, if your article is about a platform itself, tag the platform alone (i.e. Nintendo Switch, VR, Playstation). If a game is cross-platform, tag “Cross Platform,” or don’t. This one matters less.
- Tag the genres and themes. Genres might be MOBAs, Racing, First-Person Shooter. Themes might be Horror, Retro, Surreal, Calm, Art.
- For popular franchises, tag both the individual game, and the entry. So for Pokémon Fire Red, tag Pokémon Fire Red and Pokémon. Keep in mind that you can’t italicize game names in tags, I just do it here to reinforce the habit.
- Tag closely related games, but only one. So for Bloodborne, maybe tag Dark Souls, but don’t include every Souls-like.
If, after following all of the above guidelines, you have more than 6 tags, remove some. 3-5 is ideal.