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Subject: Writing Rules - How do you refer to a player? rss

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Ilan Vonderwalde
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I'm trying to write rules for a game, and using the "he or she" is getting a little tideous.

What would you rather see in a rule book?

"The player" - can get annoying and repetitive
(E.g. Each player has a certain number of actions dependant on the amount of survivors that the player possesses.)
"He or She" - tedious
(E.g. Each player has a certain number of actions dependant on the amount of survivors that he or she possesses.)
"They" - grammatically incorrect
(E.g. Each player has a certain number of actions dependant on the amount of survivors that they possess.)
"He" - not gender neutral
(E.g. Each player has a certain number of actions dependant on the amount of survivors that he possesses.)
"She" - not gender neutral
(E.g. Each player has a certain number of actions dependant on the amount of survivors that she possesses.)


Poll
What do you prefer to see in a rule book when referring to a player?
"The player"
"He or she"
"They"
"He"
"She"
      114 answers
Poll created by stuchii
 
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Kevin L. Kitchens
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There is a recent segment on a Dice Tower podcast covering this very thing and that "they" is grammatically correct and historically accepted usage.

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Leif Carlsen
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It - it puts the meeple on its tile or else it gets the discard pile.
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Scott Frazer
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The singular form of "they" was good enough for (among others) Chaucer, Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Thackeray, and Shaw. It's probably good enough for your rulebooks

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singular_they

If you are going with "he" or "she" I would say to pick one and stick with it. It's weird when it switches back and forth in the middle of a rulebook.
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Scott Nelson
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current player.
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Jeff Warrender
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An alternative approach is to write in the second person; this can actually work surprisingly well, since it's the way you'd speak if you were explaining the game to someone in real life.
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Adam Porter
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I use a singular "they" although I think it can be confusing at times. In that instance I revert to using "the player". In examples of gameplay I name the players and tend to alternate male and female names, starting with female names. When using male AND female names together things become very clear because it is obvious who I am referring to by "he" or "she".

E.g "Sophie takes Steve's meeple and places it on her own tile" is much clearer than "Player One takes Player Two's meeple and places it on their own tile"
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Scott Nelson
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jwarrend wrote:
An alternative approach is to write in the second person; this can actually work surprisingly well, since it's the way you'd speak if you were explaining the game to someone in real life.


I was told to stay away from the word "You" more than once.
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J C Lawrence
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"A player that XXX can/may YYY."
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John
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When saying that sentence I would use "they". When reading rules "he or she" would irritate me. If you used "he" or "she" I would probably notice which you used but wouldn't be bothered which you used. The safest option is probably to use "the player" or reword sentences to avoid the problem...

I think "they" is grammatically correct but can occasionally be confusing if it's not clear whether it's the plural or singular. According to Wikipedia it is more accepted in the UK than the US.

Adam78 wrote:
In examples of gameplay I name the players and tend to alternate male and female names, starting with female names.

I do the same thing but tend to do the hurricane naming or cryptography thing with starting with the players names starting with each letter of the alphabet so:
Abe, Beth, Charles and Dianne
Abigail, Ben, Claire and David
 
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Russ Williams
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ropearoni4 wrote:
current player.

Hmm? That does not solve the pronoun issue at all. I.e. do you say "the current player puts the widget on his player mat" or "...on her player mat" or "...on his/her player mat" or "...on his or her player mat" or "...on their player mat" or ...?

(Or are you proposing literally never using pronouns, and saying things like "the current player puts the widget on the current player's player mat"? Never using pronouns would seem unusual and cumbersome.)
 
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TonyKR
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Why oh why can't English have a proper gender-neutral singular pronoun?
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Russ Williams
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clearclaw wrote:
"A player that XXX can/may YYY."

For many examples of XXX that seems to not very clearly solve the pronoun issue. E.g. "A player that has a widget in one of their/his/her/etc own cities can YYY".

You can't get rid of "their own" since "A player that has a widget in a city..." has an expanded meaning (i.e. it is also satisfied if the player has a widget in an opponent's city).

You can't reorder it to emphasize the city instead of the widget as the direct object ("A player that owns a city with a widget...") because that is also satisfied if an opponent's widget is in the player's city.

I suppose you could say "A player that owns a widget and a city in the same location..." and it logically works (assuming there is no concept of a widget in a location with a city but not IN the city, e.g. a besieging widget or a besieged widget...), but it somehow seems a bit indirect/odd to me.

---

What about situations like "Each turn, a player must pay $1 for each unit they own"?

Eliminating the pronoun to say e.g. "Each turn, a player must pay $1 for each owned unit" seems literally wrong (ALL units are owned by someone, so a player must pay for every unit in play, regardless of who owns it?) The qualification restricting it to units owned by the player is logically necessary.

Changing the pronoun to literally "that player" is possible but cumbersome ("Each turn, a player must pay $1 for each unit owned by that player").

Reordering it: "Each turn, each unit causes its owner to pay $1" technically eliminates the player pronoun (shifting the pronoun from the player to the unit), but seems indirect/odd to me. It is "object-oriented" instead of "player-oriented", so to speak. The game objects can generally be referred to with the pronoun "it". Maybe that "object orientation" is a possible way to go. Or maybe that style of rules text might be confusing/weird to many readers. I dunno.
 
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Samuel Hinz
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Pugnax555 wrote:
Why oh why can't English have a proper gender-neutral singular pronoun?


english does and it's "they"
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Brendan Riley
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ropearoni4 wrote:
jwarrend wrote:
An alternative approach is to write in the second person; this can actually work surprisingly well, since it's the way you'd speak if you were explaining the game to someone in real life.


I was told to stay away from the word "You" more than once.


By whom and in what context? In the context of writing rules? Take a look at Vlaada Chvátil's rules -- he often writes in second person and does so quite well. As a writing instructor, when I've had to tell people not to use "you," it's usually in a context where they're writing in a formal, third person and stick a second-person sentence in there.

If you've written consistently in the 2nd person, I don't see anything wrong with it.
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The Fire
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I went with 'they' in general but if you are writing for a solo game then you have no choice but to use 'you/your'.
 
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TonyKR
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abodi wrote:
Pugnax555 wrote:
Why oh why can't English have a proper gender-neutral singular pronoun?


english does and it's "they"

"They" being the same form as is used for the plural, which can be imprecise and lead to confusion. Rather than "proper" I should have said "discrete."
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Chip Crawford
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Pugnax555 wrote:
Why oh why can't English have a proper gender-neutral singular pronoun?


People don't like being referred to as "It" I suppose.

For the original question,

Could you use "you" to refer to the player and "your opponents" be used for the other players?
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Brendan Riley
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ChipChuck wrote:
People don't like being referred to as "It" I suppose.


My favorite moment from A Miracle on 34th Street is when Kris says to his friend, "Imagine, trying to convince a child to take a gift it doesn't want just because HE ordered too many of the wrong thing." I haven't gotten good responses when I tried a similar pronoun in polite conversation.
 
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J C Lawrence
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russ wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
"A player that XXX can/may YYY."

For many examples of XXX that seems to not very clearly solve the pronoun issue. E.g. "A player that has a widget in one of their/his/her/etc own cities can YYY".

You can't get rid of "their own" since "A player that has a widget in a city..." has an expanded meaning (i.e. it is also satisfied if the player has a widget in an opponent's city).


I have no problem with using the singular "they".

A player with a widget in a city they control or have a plurality of tokens in...

Quote:
You can't reorder it to emphasize the city instead of the widget as the direct object ("A player that owns a city with a widget...") because that is also satisfied if an opponent's widget is in the player's city.


A player that owns a city containing one of their (own) widgets...

Quote:
Changing the pronoun to literally "that player" is possible but cumbersome ("Each turn, a player must pay $1 for each unit owned by that player").


That seems fine to me, as does:

At the start of each turn each player must pay $1 for each of their (deployed) units.
 
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Mark McGee
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"You"
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Scott Nelson
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The current player places the meeple on their playermat over the indicated icon of the action they have chosen.

So yes, their is used with current player.

cumbersome? how about this "The player whose turn it is currently"
 
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J C Lawrence
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meshnaster wrote:
"You"


I find "you" irritating in rules. No, I don't...
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Scott Frazer
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Pugnax555 wrote:
abodi wrote:
Pugnax555 wrote:
Why oh why can't English have a proper gender-neutral singular pronoun?


english does and it's "they"

"They" being the same form as is used for the plural, which can be imprecise and lead to confusion. Rather than "proper" I should have said "discrete."


Fun fact! "You" used to be only plural. "Thou" was the singular form.

Now "You" is both singular and plural. Unless you're in the south, then the plural is "Y'all"
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Scott Nelson
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wombat929 wrote:
ropearoni4 wrote:
jwarrend wrote:
An alternative approach is to write in the second person; this can actually work surprisingly well, since it's the way you'd speak if you were explaining the game to someone in real life.


I was told to stay away from the word "You" more than once.


By whom and in what context? In the context of writing rules? Take a look at Vlaada Chvátil's rules -- he often writes in second person and does so quite well. As a writing instructor, when I've had to tell people not to use "you," it's usually in a context where they're writing in a formal, third person and stick a second-person sentence in there.

If you've written consistently in the 2nd person, I don't see anything wrong with it.


Publishers who tell me to write my rules without using "You", are the ones who tell me these things; as you might be able to tell, I have a problem using "You" in my rules before I have to revamp them for more than one publisher.

In examples I use Names of the ABCD players: Anna, Bob, Charlie, and Dale which happen to be names of my wife, her grandpa, her sister, and her other grandpa.
 
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