SI Writing Style Guide

Savage Insider Writing Style Guide

An ever-evolving guide to writing and editing for Savage Insider.
Last Update: June 29, 2015.

Structure

Repetition

When writing, especially over long periods of time, it’s easy to say something two or more times unintentionally. Please keep in mind that space is limited and so is readers’ attention. Before sending your submission, be sure you have re-read your piece. Do it out loud! It’s easier to notice you’ve said something twice or thrice than it is to realize you’ve read something multiple times.

If you find you’ve repeated yourself, fix it. That might entail reorganizing your paragraphs or simply deleting the redundant writing. Often, people repeat themselves because their completed submission doesn’t flow in a natural way; they might have written something, added to it, left it, come back to it, added something unrelated, and then ended up feeling they needed to put in something they forgot they already wrote about.

Flow of Your Piece

When you finish writing, read what you wrote, preferably out loud. You should notice if it seems disjointed, out of order, or even missing something.

If you feel you put something in that doesn’t really relate to the main focus of the piece, or is only tenuously related, it might be a good candidate for an axe blow.

If you realize you talk about things in a way that feels that you played 52-Card Pick Up with your paragraphs, drag them into the right order and re-write as needed.

Wrap-Up

Every feature needs a wrap-up. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Mechanics Wise or Stories to Inspire feature. Ensure you haven’t just stopped abruptly.

On the flip side, make sure your wrap-up doesn’t take as long to do as half the feature. It should be a single paragraph most of the time. Occasionally, it’ll make sense to do two. If you feel three is needed, unless it’s a particularly long feature (4,000+ words), you may need to rework your conclusion.

Tables

Use tables only when necessary. If something can be depicted in a list, do that. Don’t anchor tables within the document. Do not send a table as an image; space constraints make it impossible for us to tell you what size to make one. We will need to rework any table sent.

Style

Formatting

Don’t! Okay, that’s not exactly what we mean, but we don’t want you doing much. Why not? Because more often than not, we have to reformat everything people do: fonts, headers, bolding, underlining, indenting, you name it.

Ideally?

Font: Use Times New Roman.

Header 1: 18 point centered (for titles)

Header 2: 16 point, bold

Header 3: 14 point, bold & italicized

Header 4: 12 point, bold

Normal: 12 point, first line indented .1”

Use black only

Don’t use horizontal rules, highlighting, colors for your fonts, images, or any decorative page elements.

Don’t use underlines! We live link for PDFs (and plan to do the same in other electronic formats as appropriate).

Bold should be used sparingly.

Italics should denote something special about the word.

Paragraph Styles

If you are able to set that in your text editor before you begin, that’s done by formatting your paragraphs as first line indented by .1”, which is our preferred method. Alternatively, indent the first line by two spaces. That’s it. Just two.

While you’re in the paragraph style, choose Line Spacing: Single. When you hit Enter (Return) at the end of your paragraph, it’ll put in only the amount of space we need. Please do not hit Enter more than once.

Use only one space between the ending punctuation of one sentence and the beginning of the next.

Keep in mind that we are in a two-column format. Be sure to break up paragraphs so that they don’t take up half a column.

Punctuation

We believe in commas! Err on the side of the comma. Too many is generally better than too few.

Series of three or more (the serial comma, also known as the Oxford comma):

  • I wish I could go to the movies, read a book, or see a concert. (correct)
  • I wish I could go to the movies, read a book or see a concert. (incorrect)

Semi-colons are not substitutes for commas! Well, not usually. We’ve got an example where there’s an exception. J

  • He’s really nice, but he’s not very open. (correct)
  • He’s really nice; but he’s not very open. (incorrect)

Also:

  • He’s really nice; he brought me flowers. (correct)
  • He’s really nice, he brought me flowers. (incorrect)

And:

It was a long wish list! She wanted to pick up her friends; go to downtown to Shelly’s for lunch; climb the big, red tower; and then head out to the trails to do some hiking, sight-seeing, and picture-taking.

In the last example, using only commas would have gotten murky. There was a situation with two adjectives modifying the word “tower” and a list within a list. That was one place where substituting a semi-colon for a comma made sense because it provided greater clarity.

Quotation mark, oh, how we hate thee.

Single quotation marks are used for quotes within quotes.

Double quotation marks are for quotations. If you feel the need to use them and you aren’t quoting someone, ask yourself why that is and if you really need to. Chances are that you don’t.

Italics

When referencing published works, italicize them. E.g. Savage Insider and Tunse’al Setting Guide.

When referencing settings, but not a publication with the setting in its name, don’t. So, a reference to Tunse’al, the setting, isn’t the same as talking about its setting guide by name.

Which English are We Using?

While English is spoken in many countries besides England, the language is neither punctuated the same, nor is the spelling for or meaning of all its words the same everywhere it’s spoken or written. We’re an American company whose readers are largely residents of the USA. As such, use American spellings, rules for punctuation and grammar, and standards of measurements (i.e. don’t use the metric system). If you aren’t sure, check a reliable resource online. Failing that, ask us. If you use Microsoft Word, check your help file for how to set your document for English (US) spellings.

Game Terms and Notations

If game terms that are capitalized in Savage Worlds rule books are used in an article or game feature, they should likewise be capitalized in Savage Insider. Typically, that happens with items such as skills and traits. (E.G. The character might Notice the temperature has dropped unnaturally. Have player roll for Notice.) There are some inconsistencies in the SW rules books. Please use the notations that follow in pieces for SI.

Common Words that are Capitalized

  • Advance
  • Any Rank (e.g. Novice, Seasoned, etc.)
  • Area of Effect
  • Attributes (e.g. Agility, Strength, etc. as well as the word “Attribute”)
  • Benny/Bennies
  • Card Names (Club, Diamond, Joker, etc.)
  • Chase
  • Edge
  • Experience Points
  • GM
  • Hindrance (and modifiers such as “Major)
  • Incapacitated
  • Interlude
  • Plot Point Campaign
  • Power Points
  • Rate of Fire
  • Shaken
  • The specific name of a skill (e.g. Boating, Stealth, etc.)
  • Traits (and the word “Traits”)
  • Wild Die

Common Terms that are NOT Capitalized

Some terms seem like they should be capitalized because their nature seems similar to that of other terms…yet, they aren’t.

  • ally
  • power
  • skill
  • campaign
  • raise
  • round
  • success

When relaying distances as they pertain to a map, indicate inches for the grid using the double quote mark (”). If a writer is indicating in stats the area covered by a specific skill (e.g. area of effect for spell), she’ll write something like this: affects all targets within 6”. That refers to 6 1-inch squares on a map from where the caster is standing.

When listing skills, put them in alphabetical order. When listing Special Abilities for monsters, do the same.

We deviate slightly from Pinnacle Entertainment Group’s depiction of lines showing Charisma, Pace, Parry, and Toughness. Their standard is:

Charisma: +2; Pace: 6; Parry: 5; Toughness: 5

Ours omits the semicolons as the bold indicates separation enough for us:

Charisma: +2 Pace: 6 Parry: 5 Toughness: 5

Jargon and Acronyms

As with most hobbies or fields of interest, we have jargon and acronyms. Be sure to explain any jargon and spell out things being abbreviated upon their first use in your feature or article. Better for us to deem it unnecessary and remove it than to have to add it in on your behalf. E.g. “The game master (GM) is responsible for setting the tone for the role-playing game (RPG).”  Alternatively, if the term is spelled out and very soon thereafter abbreviated, you can skip putting the parenthetical in. If unsure, err on the side of the parenthetical.

Citing and Referring to Publications

Much writing done for Savage Insider refers to other publications, and we need to respect those publications.

When referring to another’s work, cite the source. Give the name, author, and company. We’re not talking scholastic citations that appear at the end of the article. Just provide that information in the writing. If you want to go the extra mile, give us a link to where people can buy the cited source.

Do not refer to a specific page in any publication! You have no way of knowing what edition or even what version of a publication someone has. Instead, refer to the appropriate section or just in which publication the referenced item can be found.

Referring to Something Else within Your Writing

Sometimes we write things where further explanation is needed, but where it’s first mentioned isn’t the place to do that. Often, it’s tempting to tell the reader to see a specific place for that information. Don’t. You have no idea where in Savage Insider that reference will fall.

Examples of What Not to Do!

  • See above
  • See below
  • On the next page

Examples of What to Do!

  • (see “NPCs”)
  • (explained later)
  • [subject referenced] is fully detailed in the next section
  • * [And then be very sure you follow through with an explanation of the asterisked item, complete with using “*” to indicate the corresponding explanation.]

You Are Not Your Character

As gamers, we often fall into speaking as if we were our characters. We’re not. You’re not. The readers are not. When writing about something a character does, refer to the character. When referring to something the player does, refer to player. Occasionally, the lines get blurred, particularly when you start writing about choosing something for the character with your knowledge as a player. However, most of the time it’s pretty clear who would be wielding that mace, flying the spaceship, or in the middle of a car chase.

Gender

Guys play. Gals play. People who have different views on what determines gender play. Please attempt to reflect this concept by not using “he” as the exclusive pronoun when generically describing players and GMs. Although some feel it’s outdated, using “they” is fine by us. However, it may be more powerful to alternate using “he” and “she” to refer to players and GMs.

Numbers

Write out numbers one through ten, except as part of an expression of percentages or denoting penalties, bonuses, or points.

Write out any number if the sentence starts with it. Try to avoid starting a sentence with a long number or year.

When expressing multiple numbers in the same sentence, use a consistent case.

  • Only one in three thousand (correct)
  • Only 1 in 3,000 (correct)
  • Only one in 3,000 (incorrect)

Write 5% not five%. Use the symbol for percent (%), not the word. There’s enough expression of mechanics in RPGs to consider this kind of writing technical. On the off chance that for some reason you’re dealing with something that is smaller than 1%, indicate the implied “0” just for clarity. So 0.2%, not .2%.

If you are expressing a range, use numbers, not words. So 3-4 hours, not three to four hours.

If you are using years, it is 1800s, not 1800’s.

Consistency

For the love of all things holy and good, be consistent! If you make up a name for something in your story, article, feature, etc., don’t go back and forth on how it is spelled, joined, abbreviated, and so on. E.g. If you name a person Anestialitn, we’re not adding that to our dictionary, so you need to be extra sure that you don’t spell it Anesitialten or some such later. Likewise, if you call something a berry-bat, don’t later refer to the berry bat, barry-bat, bury bat, or any other variation. We expect to edit, but if you can’t decide on what you want to call something in your work, we really don’t want to either.

Passive Voice vs. Active Voice

Use active voice. Be descriptive and engaging.

  • The elders told us the building was haunted. (correct)
  • The building was said to be haunted from what we learned from the elders. (incorrect)

And

  • The townspeople pass the history down from generation to generation. (correct)
  • The history is passed from generation to generation. (incorrect, leaves us wondering who is doing the passing)

Images

Discuss any images you would like considered with the editor. Don’t REPLACE images within a document.

If you are sending images for consideration, send them as separate files. See the Submission Guidelines and the SI Illustration Style Guide for specifics pertaining to images.

Note in the document [[REPLACE Image REPLACE THESE WORDS WITH IMAGE FILE NAME]] where you feel the image is most appropriate. If there is no specific place the image needs to be, just reference the file name of submitted illustrations at the beginning of your document. If you are not the illustrator, the person who is needs to submit the image(s) separately with an accompanying Contributor’s Acknowledgement*.

Do not submit images you have found online or elsewhere. If you are not the copyright holder, we cannot print your supplied image, and you will not be paid for the illustration. If you believe something you have seen would be great for illustrating your feature, you are welcome to suggest it. We will review the source and determine if it is something we can use, following the source’s licensing guidelines.

*If you are a Savage Worlds Licensee and hold the copyright on illustrations submitted, we still need to know who to credit. Otherwise, only the company will be credited. If you don’t have the authority to grant us rights to print an illustration, please send a request to the artist who created the piece, copying business@obatron.com, and we’ll attempt to gain permission to print it. We don’t want any artist feeling we’ve infringed upon their copyrights!

That

“That” is over used. Run a search for “that” and see if it’s really needed.

  • I told him that I would take care of it. (With “that.” It doesn’t do anything for clarity.)
  • I told him I would take care of it. (Without “that.” Shows how “that” isn’t needed in this case.)

This vs. That

“This” and “that” are easily confused. This refers to something nearby, literally or figuratively. That refers to something in the distance, literally or figuratively. Unless the writing is a quote showing a person holding something and saying, “this” or we are referring to what we are immediately describing, we don’t usually say “this.” In other words:

  • The cat was so bold, he’d run into the road. That is why we don’t let him out. (correct)
  • The cat was so bold, he’d run into the road. This is why we don’t let him out. (incorrect)

These vs. Those

Same logic as “this” versus “that,” but for plurality. “These” is used when you’re in the present and are referring to something within your grasp. “Those” is used to refer to something that was previously described or is somewhere else.

In describing why something can’t happen when the reasons are occurring right now or are very recent (close by compared to the moment of the statement):

  • For these reasons, they cannot go forward. (correct)
  • For those reasons, they cannot go forward. (incorrect)

In describing days that occurred in a distant time (far away compared to the moment of the statement):

  • Those days are long gone. (correct)
  • These days are long gone. (incorrect)

Another example using ‘these’ and ‘those’ as explained by someone else for a less abstract situation:

Query: I have a real problem knowing which word is correct in which context.

Is it: Where did all those socks come from?

Or: Where did all these socks come from?

Response: The use of “those” suggests that you are looking at the socks from a distance. The use of “these” suggests that you are near them as you speak.

Or, you could be looking at two piles of socks and use “these” for one pile and “those” for the other pile.

Grey vs. Gray

Use grey.

Past vs. Passed

“Passed” is the past tense of the verb “pass.” “Past” is used as almost everything except a verb. There’s a great website to help sort out when to use “passed” versus “past.” http://www.grammar-monster.com/easily_confused/past_passed.htm

Proper Nouns

If you are naming something as a proper noun, the first letter of each word comprising the proper noun gets capitalized.

Related – Capitalizing descriptive nouns isn’t necessary. For example, ‘Queen Elizabeth’ is capitalized because it’s a proper name, however, simply referring to the woman by that name does not warrant capitalization. So, “The Queen stared at him” is wrong while “The queen stared at him” is right. That’s not the same as when a descriptive noun takes the place of someone’s name or address (E.g. “When Queen spoke, everyone listened.”)

Formality

We’re not going for a formal tone, neither are we going for such an informal tone that it sounds as if your best friend is conversing with you. We’re somewhere in the middle.

Contractions

We’re not really concerned about “it is” being contracted. In real speech, sometimes we say “it’s,” and other times we say “it is,” even if we’re not being formal. If you feel like we need to contract every once in a while for effect, that’s fine, but don’t worry about having universal contractions.

Conversational Tone

Much like with formality, we’re looking for the middle of the road here. We’re happier with phrases such as “you can use this guide” as opposed to “one can use this guide.”