Style and Usage
Our primary style reference is The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual. We also recommend reading The Elements of Style by Strunk & White. The following are either not covered in those references, are instances where the Judges Guild usage differs from those standards, or are otherwise worthy of note.
- contractions: Generally to be avoided, but are not prohibited. The Pegasus writing style is semi-formal.
- gaming: The hobby of playing roleplaying games, wargames, and collectible card games. Games of chance should be referred to as gambling, no matter what euphemism the gambling industry tries to use.
- the Internet: Abbreviating to the Net is acceptable in subsequent references. Do not confuse the Internet with the various services it carries. If you mean Usenet, the World Wide Web, etc., then say so.
- Judge: Always capitalized. Used in place of gamemaster, referee, dungeon master, or other terms for the organizer and moderator of a roleplaying game. Exception: When writing for a specific game system, use the official term used by that system. For example, an article specific to White Wolf's World of Darkness system would refer to this person as the Storyteller.
- Numbers: In text use, spell out numbers below 10, use figures for 10 and above. For example, the Pegasus editor has one cat, three snakes, 24 fish, and four frogs. In character statistics and in data presented in tabular form, always use figures. For example, a character with a Strength of 10.
- roleplaying: One word, not hyphenated.
- RPG: Abbreviation for roleplaying game. Always all caps. Plural RPGs.
- Sci-Fi: Considered offensive by some readers. Use science fiction or SF in all contexts except for direct references to the name of the cable TV channel.
- Usenet: Proper noun, always capitalized.
- the Web: Acceptable abbreviation for the World Wide Web. Not synonymous with the Internet, which is the computer network that supports the Web.
Commonly Misused Homonyms and Homophones
- a lot - many
- allot - to give or assign
- alot - not a word
- affect - verb, to influence: Mountains affect the weather.
- effect - noun, a result: The effect of rain is often floods; verb, to bring about: She effected many changes.
- all right - fine
- allright - not a word
- alright - not a word
- capital - government city, wealth, or upper-case letter
- capitol - building in which the legislature meets
- compose - make up: The parts compose the whole.
- comprise - embrace: The whole comprises the parts.
- consist - to be composed: The whole consists of the parts.
- constitute - essentially a synonym for compose.
Note: The preferred usage in Pegasus is consist and constitute.
- dual - double
- duel - a formal combat, often to settle a point of honor
- flaunt - to show off: He flaunted his wealth.
- flout - to defy openly: He flouted the tax laws.
- gild - to paint or coat with gold
- guild - a business organization
- gilt - painted or coated with gold
- guilt - opposite of innocence
- its - possessive of it: Time takes its toll.
- it's - contraction of it is: It's over.
- lead - heavy metal; to guide or direct: I will lead them into battle.
- led - past tense of lead: I led them into battle.
- loose - opposite of tight: My shoe is loose.
- lose - opposite of find: Do not lose your shoe.
- plane - flat surface; fixed-wing aircraft; fantasy dimension
- plain - not fancy; grassland (often plains)
- principal - primary, main: The principal factors
- principle - rule: Stick to your principles.
- profit - financial gain
- prophet - a religious teacher; someone who sees the future
- rain - to drip: It rained all weekend.
- reign - to rule: The king reigned.
- rein - part of a horse's bridle; to use reins (to rein in)
Note: The oft-abused phrase is correctly free rein, referring to a horse allowed to do as it wishes, not free reign.
- retch - to vomit
- wretch - a miserable person
- sever - to cut off
- severe - hard or stern
- their - possessive of they: Their book is here.
- there - at that place: It is there.
- they're - contraction of they are: They're going.
- to - toward, concerning: I am going to town.
- too - also: Fred is going too.
- two - a number between one and three
- throne - what a king sits on
- thrown - past tense of throw
- weather - atmospheric conditions: The weather is fine.
- whether - if it is so: I am going whether or not you are.
- whose - possessive of who: Whose book is this?
- who's - contraction of who is: Who's on first?
Commonly Misused Words
These are words which are often used incorrectly, in some cases so pervasively that many people believe the erroroneous usage to be correct. Some, such as the replacement of the perfectly good "house" with "home" and the use of "quality" as an adjective, are the fault of the advertising industry. In some cases, such as the non-parallel ladies and gentlemen, the words involved have a very specific meaning in the historical or quasi-historical context of many roleplaying games, and should be used correctly.
- bring - what you do with something when you come: Bring that back here!
- decimate - means to destroy one-tenth. Do not use in the sense of overwhelming destruction.
- dice - is two or more of the things; one is a die.
- gentleman - is a man of the gentry. The female equivalent is gentlewoman.
- home - is any place where someone lives. It may be a house, an apartment, etc.
- house - is a dwelling, usually for a single family. Home is not synonymous.
- lady - is a woman of armigerous rank, the counterpart to lord.
- take - what you do with something when you go: Take that away from here!
- quality - is a noun, not an adjective. Judges Guild publishes high quality products.
- unique - if something is unique, it is the only one of its kind. Very unique is very wrong.
- woman - is not improper to use, and should be used in the same context as man.
Commas: Believe it or not, there are rules for where commas belong in a sentence. (No, you don't put them in wherever you slow down to catch a breath) In particulary, they should never separate the subject and the predicate of a sentence. You will find an explanation in the first chapter of Strunk & White. If you are not sure whether to use a comma, it's probably safer to leave it out.
When using multiple adjectives, insert commas only when there are three or more. For example, the little brown dog but the little, brown, hairy dog. In some cases, it is better to leave them out even when the rules might justify their usage. For example, "the wet little brown dog" is much more readible than"the wet, little, brown dog", which looks unskilled.
Hyphens: Adjective/noun combinations are commonly hyphenated when used as adjectives, but not when used as nouns. For example, "a low-level character" but "the character is low level". The same is true of numbers: "a six-year-old boy" but "the boy is six years old".
Apostrophe abuse: Do not ever use apostrophes to construct plurals. An apostrophe appears before the letter "s" in two cases, and two cases alone: when constructing a possessive, and when constructing a contraction. Possessives of pronouns (his, hers, yours, theirs, its) do not use apostrophes. If a possessive and a contraction are spelled the same (e.g., its and it's) the contraction gets to keep its apostrophe and the possessive gets none. Family names are no different from any other word, and therefore are not pluralized with apostrophes. Mr. and Ms. Smith are "the Smiths" and their house is "the Smiths' house".
Capitalization: Capitalize proper nouns (names of people, places, and things). Set acronyms in all caps. Capitalize trademarks according to the trademark owner's preferred usage. The latter is the only case in which any internal capitalization should be used in a word; (e.g., "TableMaster"). Compound words that are not trademarks should under no circumstances use internal capitalization. It is "roleplaying", never "RolePlaying".
Other Style Issues:
Passive voice: Some people think that writing in the passive voice is more formal, or at least more impressive. To readers, it is stuffy and pretentious. More important, however, it is flat and uninteresting. You are writing for adventure games, not government reports. Instead of "The dragon was slain by the hero" write "The hero slew the dragon".
Gender and pronouns: He is exclusionary. "They" for the neuter singular is incorrect. "He/she", "he or she", and "s/he" are grammatical atrocities. Calling people "it" upsets them. Changing pronouns in mid-paragraph drives the readers (and this editor) mad. The various proposed alternatives have never caught on. Is there any solution to this mess? Well, yes:
First of all, write to avoid pronouns when you can. Not only will this reduce worries about being grammatically correct, but it will usually lead to clearer writing. Compare "The Judge should give the clue to the player, and he will then reveal it to the rest of the party" with "The Judge should give the clue to the player, who will then reveal it to the rest of the party". In the former, exactly who will reveal the clue -- the Judge or the player -- is somewhat ambiguous; in the latter, it is clear.
Second, it is rare that you cannot substitute a more descriptive word for man or men. Saying that the Duke of Elsewhere's personal guard consists of 30 soldiers is more accurate than saying 30 men. Members, rebels, citizens, warriors . . . all of these terms are more colorful alternatives to bland terms and pronouns for people.
Finally, if there's no good alternative, don't sweat it. If you have to use what you have, it will be all right.