Ryan Macklin reports:
"Assume your rules will be constantly read aloud. They’ll be read aloud before some games as a way of explanation, and they’ll certainly be read aloud during the game. Have your tense reflect what’s read during the game...Use the second person. Talk to the active player...But default to second person except where it causes a distinct lack of clarity or ruins the tone...Don’t say 'The cards are shuffled.' Say 'Shuffle the cards.' Not only does it make the language tighter and easier to read, [but] it will [also] make your rules better to ferret out passive voice. That, and your readers want direction, not ambiguity...Don’t say what people 'should' do, [but] say what they do. 'Should' is an advice word, not a direction word. It’s useless in nearly all instances you’ll find them in [rulebooks]. Cut them and the meaning doesn’t change, and your language is stronger for it...Don’t stealth-introduce game terms...When you first mention a game term, introduce it—or at least forward reference it. Make an internal guide to every game term, including capitalization. Basically, make a mini-style guide for your game. Anything that doesn’t match usage, context, or format should be flagged. In a large document like many RPGs, consistencies will be easier to correct (or at least offer solution) because there’s usually one way more often done than another. In a small document, this isn’t necessarily the case, and you don’t want an editor making incorrect revisions. (And you ideally want your editor making those revisions [rather] than forcing you to do it because the document wasn’t clear.)...As an overcorrection to stealth-introduction, some designers will give instructions relating to a game term the moment it’s introduced, even when the full instructions aren’t relevant at that point. If you’re, say, introducing all of the components, don’t also explain the rules out-of-context in that introduction...Don’t have necessary information spread everywhere, like all the ways to score points or the various actions in a game...Be aware of the physical format of these rules. This is more of a layout thing, but keep in mind how your rules have to fit on pages and folds as you’re writing them. Be prepared to move around (and possibly revise) the text in order to make an easier-to-understand physical document that fits in a box...For real, write down what you expect will visually accompany a second of text. In board game rules, that’s a non-trivial context channel, and your rules editor may give you problematic edits because you aren’t showing them those other context channels...With the exception of a single creator credit line, have all your credits at the end. Card and board game rulebooks deal with the economy of space and the positions of folds. Having important front-fold space taken up by credits is a killer."
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