"Pronoun: a noun that's lost its amateur status" (Calvin and Hobbes)
Not quite confident enough about your writing skills to submit an article to Code3Arena?
Afraid you might be criticised or rejected for bad grammar? Didn't understand the
point of English lessons at school, and now wish you did? Take heart, this page is for you.
This little gem of an article was tucked away on the GameSpy private intranet, available
only to a select few. Well not any more! It covers the basics of good grammar in an accessible way.
Learn from it so you can win new friends, correct your boss's corrections, and pull in that
literature prize you always wanted!
An important note: tutorial and article submissions will be judged for content, and
not be rejected for bad grammar alone. This article is for guidance and you will not
be beaten over the head with it. Here at Code3Arena we're less than perfect ourselves, so we
don't expect you to be.
Thanks go out to Allen Eccles and Frank Rogan of the GameSpy team for permission to reproduce
their work. Here's your fifteen minutes of fame guys!
GameSpy's Guide to Good Grammar
Compiled by Allen Eccles and Frank Rogan
As a former teacher, I used to carry hundreds of student essays home on a weekly basis. Armed with red
pens, yellow highlighters, and much undue anger I was forced to bleed (red pen teacher humor), these
papers of their mistakes. After grading them, I would come across many of the same errors every time,
most of which I had spent previous lecturing hours trying to alleviate. I would yell, scream and terrorize
(that's the kind of guy I am), most of my students into grammar submission! Thankfully, by the end of the
year, the majority of these nagging little errors would be rectified making me a happy boy until the next
year's batch of illiterates welcomed me. Sigh.
To put it bluntly, little grammar errors, the kind largely ignored by the majority of people, can speak
volumes about you. Good writing makes you seem smart, even if you're not. Don't you want to look smart?
Good writing impresses people. Imagine the possibilities. Good writing will earn you respect from your
peers. It's nice to be respected - I know. Good writing will help you avoid monotony, repetition and force
you to expand your vocabulary. Use a thesaurus! Good writing will inform your readers what is important,
when to pause, and when to keep on keeping on. Good writing will make you a better person in the end. Do
yourself a favor - write well. Be a good person. Read more. Write more. Avoid the following errors, and
life will be much better. Birds will sing. Computers won't crash. Beer will taste better (only if you
are 21), and GSI will love you!
- Enclose punctuation within quotation marks.
The embattled red team tries in vain to overtake the blue
beachhead in an assault map that plays like the opening 20
minutes of "Saving Private Ryan."
While some RPG players may feel this is "cheating," I enjoyed
the fact that I didn't need to wander around aimlessly trying to
find enemies to fight.
- Use quotation marks to enclose a word or phrase that is being defined.
The word "MMX" is specific to Pentium computers.
- A sentence containing an expression in parenthesis is punctuated outside the last mark of parenthesis exactly as if the parenthetical expression were absent.
- There is no need to use a comma before parenthesis.
While playing Quake III last night (instead of UT), I concluded
the game to be superior in multiplayer mode.
- When a parenthetical item falls in the middle or at the end of a sentence, place the necessary punctuation after the closing parenthesis.
I phoned him when I arrived (as I had promised).
- Form the possessive singular of nouns by adding 's.
- Follow this rule whatever the final consonant. Write,
- Don't confuse "its" and "it's". The former is possesive and the latter is a contraction of "it is."
- In a series of three or more terms with a single conjunction, use a comma after each term except the last. Write,
Quake, Nocturne, and Space Invaders
love, peace, or harmony
Use a hyphen with certain prefixes and suffixes.
- to avoid doubling or tripling a letter
- if the root begins with a capital letter
- in general, with the prefixes all-, self-, ex- and vice-
- in compound nouns, where needed for clarity
- As a mark of anticipation, use a colon to introduce a list, summary, or long quotation.
Your daily should include at least three of the following:
drinking, smoking, gaming, eating, driving, and sleeping.
- Do not use a colon when the items of a list come immediately after a verb or preposition.
The job requirements are: reading, gaming, and fragging.
RIGHT: The job requirements are reading, gaming, and fragging.
Please pay attention to the bold words. This is their proper form of punctuation.
233 (or higher) Pentium CPU
Windows 95/98 compatible
400 MB free disk space
Quad-speed CD-ROM drive
Five Common Sense Rules
1. Grammar is important
The rules are simple. They're not half as arcane nor as extensive as all the programming you'll do in setting up an average LAN party. You mastered that, didn't you? Grammar is actually easier, and once you've gotten the basics down pat, you can write anything.
If you think about it, the use of good grammar tells you something about the writer. Good grammar means the person can use that thing between their ears, and they're more likely to be skilled and smart and l33t. Bad grammar means the writer might be a 13-year-old AOL newbie.
For example, which person would you trust writing a game review -- the guy that spells everything correctly, or the guy that kan't spel or right verry gud?
2. Everything has to agree with everything else.
It's simple, really. You can't call something an "it" and then give it a plural verb. You can't write "it are" or "they is," but you'd be amazed how many people don't get it right.
The game is Half-Life, and it was developed by Valve Software. Valve's offices are located in Seattle, Washington. The programmers are very talented.
Similar to above is the case of subjects and pronouns: the "it" and the "they." Valve Software is an "it," but the people that work there are a "they." One is a singular term and one is not.
Other parts of speech can be sticky, like conjunctions and adverbs.
Valve Software has just released their latest game.
Right: Valve Software has just released its latest game.
"Than" is different from "then," although they get confused an awful lot. Quick rule of thumb here: "then" means "soon after," as in "now and then."
3. Write like you speak - pretend you're speaking directly to the reader.
"Rather then finishing the game, they than released a patch."
Right: "Rather than finishing the game, they then released a patch."
Just say it. Don't get caught in the trap where you think that what you write absolutely has to be crafted perfectly, and if it isn't it's useless. I just broke three rules of grammar in that one sentence. But you still got the picture, right?
And if you're still not sure, read it to yourself out loud. If it doesn't make sense, change it.
Some books say you should have a sense of "parallelism." This is just a fancy way of saying that your writing should show a sense of balance and harmony. Sentences show flow into one another.
You can't. Break things. Up. Like. This.
So, put some thought into the presentation of the overall package.
You also shouldn't write sentences that drag on and on and on forever and ever and ever, because they're bad and no one reads them and they're too long just like the one you're reading right now, don't you think so?
4. Passive voice sucks
I came. I looked over everything. My army beat their army.
Right: I came. I saw. I conquered.
Passive voice happens when the writing is unnecessarily formal and doesn't use an active verb. An active verb is something that directly says something. "Was" is not an active verb.
Members of the police department discharged bullets from their guns in the direction of the suspect, and the suspect's head was struck by many of them.
Right: The cops shot some dude in the head.
There's a good word there - terminate - but the verb in the sentence is actually the lame-ass "was."
The enemy was terminated by another player with a railgun.
Right: I terminated him with a railgun.
5. Spelling counts
And not just spelling the usual words correctly. I mean knowing the difference between:
If you can't spell, you can't write. It's that simple.
- it's and its (the first is actually a contraction of "it is").
- who's and whose (the first is another contraction; it means "who is").
- There's, theirs and they're (the contraction of "there is," the possessive form of "their" and a contraction of "they are").
- Your and you're (a pronoun and a contraction of "you are").
The Tools of the Trade
Here's a list of some good writing resources. You may find some online versions with a minimum of searching.
When in doubt, pull the text into Microsoft Word, which has a fine spelling and grammar checker, which even suggests entire replacement sentences. Hitting shift-F7 opens the Microsoft thesaurus and a world of creativity to your writing. Use it!
"When Words Collide"
Just an all-around useful book. Wanna be a writer? Get this book!
"The Elements of Style"
The definitive writing, style, and grammar guide now in its fourth edition. Get it here!
The AP Stylebook
What's the difference between "who" and "whom?" (Both are pronouns, but use 'whom' when referring to the direct object of the sentence). Does the term "laser-guided missile" get a hyphen? (Yes. 'Laser-guided' is a compound modifier). The stylebook will tell you. Buy it!
Most good dictionaries not only serve as spelling aids, but will also help you with common phrases. Sadly, you're on your own with a word like "fragfest." Dictionary.com and Thesaurus.com will also aid you in spelling or defining your favorite words.
"What's another word for 'freakin' awesome'?" Don't just say something
is "bitchin'" over and over again. Get creative.
Words in need of special attention
- the Internet
I love to play Quake on the Internet.
- the Net
Playing Unreal Tournament on the Net is more fun than playing
- Web - Capitalize the word Web when using it to formulate sentences.
Both major Web browsers come with their own e-mail programs.
(Web sites, Web rings)
- World Wide Web
The World Wide Web is a massive collection of separate documents
called Web pages.
Single word terms
Common Hyphenated Words
128-bit / 64-bit
Just a few are listed here for reference. Always put acronyms in caps.
Works Cited: Much thanks to the masters.
Hacker, Diana. A Writer's Reference. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989
Strunk and White. The Elements of Style. Boston: Macmillan Publishing, 1979
Venolia, Jan. Write Right!. Berkeley, California: Ten Speed Press, 1988
Compiled by Allen Eccles and Frank Rogan