Expert Style Guide

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., E.G.

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.

 

“Dashes”

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.

This concludes the Heavyshelf Style Guide. Click below if you’re ready to write.