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Subject: Question about voice used in rules rss

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Tahsin Shamma
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I've been going through quite a few rulebooks lately looking for some consistency and I'm not sure I can find it.

Some rulebooks use 2nd person (you/your)

Some rulebooks use 3rd person singular/plural (the player, he/she, their)

Some rulebooks mix the two depending on the section, which I find annoying.

Which one do you feel is more common and/or appropriate? According to most rules of style, it should be consistent.
 
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Andrew Johnson
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What especially annoys me is the use of he/she or he or she or his or hers. It is crazy politically correct madness. Just stick with the masculine.

Back to the question I prefer 3rd person unless there is any ambiguity in which case anything will do to ensure there isn't (any ambiguity).
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marc lecours
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I think it depends on the game.

"You" is more personal. It makes the rules easier to grasp. BUT it only works if the player turns are very compartmentalized. In other words if on a player turn, the others are inactive or have only a little to do. As soon as one or more players are reacting to what "you" are doing with complicated actions then the use of "you" starts being confusing.

Then you ("the designer") have to start identifying who is doing the various actions. You need to use terms like "active player", "the phasing player", "the first player". "the player whose turn it is", "player A", "the player to the right", "the player with the ____ token", "the player with the _______ role",etc.

All rules can be written in an impersonal tone. But not all games can be written completely referring to the "active player" as "you" without sacrificing clarity.

I am not sure whether mixing the two methods is good or not.
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Andrew Johnson
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rubberchicken wrote:
I think it depends on the game.

"You" is more personal. It makes the rules easier to grasp. BUT it only works if the player turns are very compartmentalized. In other words if on a player turn, the others are inactive or have only a little to do. As soon as one or more players are reacting to what "you" are doing with complicated actions then the use of "you" starts being confusing.

Then you ("the designer") have to start identifying who is doing the various actions. You need to use terms like "active player", "the phasing player", "the first player". "the player whose turn it is", "player A", "the player to the right", "the player with the ____ token", "the player with the _______ role",etc.

All rules can be written in an impersonal tone. But not all games can be written completely referring to the "active player" as "you" without sacrificing clarity.

I am not sure whether mixing the two methods is good or not.


After learning a little Spanish I feel that language can lend itself in some ways to more clarity. The conjugation of the verbs can be used to indicate a single individual or group of people eg. juegas - you play (single individual) or jugais - you all play (more than one individual). I'm sure Spanish can be just as ambiguous as English generally speaking though. It's just that in English (at least the version I use) we need to constantly qualify who we actually mean when using the word "you". It has become too general. I believe there was multiple and more specific versions in Old English which have evolved out of the language. I remember my grandparents using the words thee and thou and such.
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todd mewborn
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I think they should identify to you as your role. The active player, the attacker, the defender, etc. I also like when they use actual name. Steve is attacking Mary. Mary does A, then Steve can do C or D.

Stick to one gender. If you want to use she the whole time, go for it.

But yes, be consistent!

I personally like my rules dry. Just tell me how to play. I don't need fluff thrown in just to add to the word count.
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Andrew Johnson
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tmewborn wrote:
I think they should identify to you as your role. The active player, the attacker, the defender, etc. I also like when they use actual name. Steve is attacking Mary. Mary does A, then Steve can do C or D.

Stick to one gender. If you want to use she the whole time, go for it.

But yes, be consistent!

I personally like my rules dry. Just tell me how to play. I don't need fluff thrown in just to add to the word count.


Agreed.
 
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James Arias
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I like rules that use strict, capitalized, consistent, defined terms (like a legal contract does) to remove ambiguity.

Some games go overboard here requiring a glossary to learn the rules (FFG?).

So for referring to players, terms like Attacker, Defender, Active Player work for me.

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Alison Mandible
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I don't know what's most common; for a while I've been toying with doing actual research on that, but automating it has been challenging.

Most appropriate? Use something gender-neutral. "You" works in many games. Singular "they" has been common in English for centuries and is rarely ambiguous; when it is ambiguous in game rules, generally either an example of play or a quick rewrite will fix it.

Why do you need other people's rulebooks to be consistent with one another, though? Style guides don't say "you should only read things written using this style guide", they just advise you to make the things you write consistent.
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Tahsin Shamma
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grasa_total wrote:
I don't know what's most common; for a while I've been toying with doing actual research on that, but automating it has been challenging.

Most appropriate? Use something gender-neutral. "You" works in many games. Singular "they" has been common in English for centuries and is rarely ambiguous; when it is ambiguous in game rules, generally either an example of play or a quick rewrite will fix it.

Why do you need other people's rulebooks to be consistent with one another, though? Style guides don't say "you should only read things written using this style guide", they just advise you to make the things you write consistent.


When I said consistent, I meant that many rule books are not consistent within their own text. That to me is annoying.

Thanks for the input.
 
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Alison Mandible
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veector wrote:
When I said consistent, I meant that many rule books are not consistent within their own text. That to me is annoying.


Oh oh oh! That bugs me too. Sorry for misunderstanding.
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I used She/Her for the Narrator (game master) and He/His for the players in my rules, and I really loved how that turned out.

I'm sure I'm not the first person to do it, but I'd never seen it before, and I got a lot of unsolicited feedback that it made the rules easy to understand.
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K S
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infectedeggs wrote:
What especially annoys me is the use of he/she or he or she or his or hers. It is crazy politically correct madness. Just stick with the masculine.


OP, I recommend against this suggestion. As a consumer and player I would find it extremely off-putting and offensive. I see nothing wrong with he/she, but there are plenty of less offensive ways to avoid it. You could use the singular "they" (as in "when a player draws this card, they end their turn") but that could potentially lead to singular/plural confusion in some situations (not exactly sure how likely such confusion is, though).

Rather, I think I would by far prefer rules written in third person and referring to players functionally (e.g. "the attacking player", "the player who drew the card") rather than referring to players with pronouns, which are always potentially ambiguous. Another option is assigning players unique labels (e.g. "Player A", "Player 2", "Red Player", "Suzy", etc.), but I think that functional descriptions are probably the approach I would prefer the most.
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James Wahl
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infectedeggs wrote:
What especially annoys me is the use of he/she or he or she or his or hers. It is crazy politically correct madness. Just stick with the masculine.

Back to the question I prefer 3rd person unless there is any ambiguity in which case anything will do to ensure there isn't (any ambiguity).


What I find weird is when people are most enraged by writers attempting to acknowledge that women exist. If your biggest problem with communication has nothing to do with the content of what's being said, or the ability to understand it, that's more an emotional problem. That's like being angry because of colors being selected to help the colorblind.

If it's unbearable that abstract grammatical people fail to have a gender, make them all women.
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Stephanie Prince
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I was surprised to see a rulebook using the first person recently: Stockpile: Continuing Corruption Rules

Quote:
Example: During the course of a 4 player game, I purchased a total of
7 Bond Cards. At the end of the game, I would exchange each of these
Bond Cards for $5K, gaining a total of $35K (the same price I would have
paid to obtain them).
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Tahsin Shamma
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Two rulebooks I've seen recently that are very well written in terms of voice:

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/189932/tyrants-underdark...

The rules ALWAYS use 2nd person and it's very easy to understand what everything applies to.

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/169318/city-spies-estori...

The rules switch voice when the type of text calls for it. They even use plural 1st person "we" when doing examples. Seems very straightforward even though the voice switches.

Thanks everyone for the input!
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James Wood
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ONR Rulebook http://www.netrunneronline.com/rules/?s=1

Structured as corporate document using "We" for the Corp but hacked by a runner using "you"

V.

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Andrew Johnson
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wamsp wrote:
infectedeggs wrote:
What especially annoys me is the use of he/she or he or she or his or hers. It is crazy politically correct madness. Just stick with the masculine.


OP, I recommend against this suggestion. As a consumer and player I would find it extremely off-putting and offensive. I see nothing wring with he/she, but there are plenty of less offensive ways to avoid it. You could use the singular "they" (as in "when a player draws this card, they end their turn") but that could potentially lead to singular/plural confusion in some situations (not exactly sure how likely such confusion is, though).

Rather, I think I would by far prefer rules written in third person and referring to players functionally (e.g. "the attacking player", "the player who drew the card") rather than referring to players with pronouns, which are always potentially ambiguous. Another option is assigning players unique labels (e.g. "Player A", "Player 2", "Red Player", "Suzy", etc.), but I think that functional descriptions are probably the approach I would prefer the most.


Sorry. I am not convinced. It's madness.
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Andrew Johnson
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pharmakon wrote:
infectedeggs wrote:
What especially annoys me is the use of he/she or he or she or his or hers. It is crazy politically correct madness. Just stick with the masculine.

Back to the question I prefer 3rd person unless there is any ambiguity in which case anything will do to ensure there isn't (any ambiguity).


What I find weird is when people are most enraged by writers attempting to acknowledge that women exist. If your biggest problem with communication has nothing to do with the content of what's being said, or the ability to understand it, that's more an emotional problem. That's like being angry because of colors being selected to help the colorblind.

If it's unbearable that abstract grammatical people fail to have a gender, make them all women.


Agreed. English (as a language) has male bias. Get used to it. God forbid what such people think of truely gendered languages.
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John "Omega" Williams
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veector wrote:
I've been going through quite a few rulebooks lately looking for some consistency and I'm not sure I can find it.

Some rulebooks use 2nd person (you/your)

Some rulebooks use 3rd person singular/plural (the player, he/she, their)

Some rulebooks mix the two depending on the section, which I find annoying.

Which one do you feel is more common and/or appropriate? According to most rules of style, it should be consistent.


As long as you are consistent the form tends to not be as big a problem.

In my own rules righting I usually use "You" as in "You roll percentile dice and check the results on the table." And sometimes use "they" when referring to the other player if there is one.

The nature of the game sometimes will dictate some degree of the style to use.
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Leon Kerkhoff
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There are loads of opinions to be found in these threads:

> Gendered Language in Game Instructions
> Use of "Singular they" on game's rules
> Rule writing: second person

Be aware that they are rather old opinions.

Personally I think it is best to avoid pronouns as much as possible and use singular they if you must. This is how I will revise the rulebook I am currently working on.

The most important thing is clarity, followed closely by consistency.
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Nathaniel Grisham

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I like second person, active voice. Like this. (A very simplified example here, so bear with me)

During your turn:
1. Do the thing.
2. Take an action.
3. Buy stuff

I think usually setup is the only place where most rules use second person, though. So the above section might actually look more like this:

During a player's turn, that player:
1. Does the thing.
2. Takes an action.
3. Buys stuff.

Passive voice should be avoided.whistle But really, in all seriousness, it's easier to follow instructions that tell you to do things, instead of telling you things that can be done. Besides, active voice gets the job done with fewer words.

When specific examples are given for clarity, I prefer names over generic titles and pronouns. And keep using the names, leave no room for questions to come up.

Player A wants to trade with Player B. She makes an offer...
vs.
Bob wants to trade with Alice. Bob makes an offer...
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K S
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infectedeggs wrote:
Sorry. I am not convinced. It's madness.

Figured you wouldn't be, Andrew. Which is why I was trying to convince OP, not you.
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O' Ibb
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I love seeing s/he - succinct and inclusive. Power to the people!
 
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Rob Harper
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wamsp wrote:
Grishhammer wrote:
Passive voice should be avoided.whistle

People say this, but the passive voice really gets an undeserved bum rap. Is "When combat begins, both players draw a card" (passive) really any less clear than "When a player begins combat, both players draw a card" (active)? I think part of this is related to the fact that many folks don't understand what passive voice is and wouldn't recognize that the first example above is an example of it, so they don't realize how natural and useful it actually is.


Or alternatively: "When you begin combat, both you and your opponent draw a card."
 
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Nathaniel Grisham

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wamsp wrote:
Grishhammer wrote:
Passive voice should be avoided.whistle

People say this, but the passive voice really gets an undeserved bum rap. Is "When combat begins, both players draw a card" (passive) really any less clear than "When a player begins combat, both players draw a card" (active)? I think part of this is related to the fact that many folks don't understand what passive voice is and wouldn't recognize that the first example above is an example of it, so they don't realize how natural and useful it actually is.

Maybe I'm unclear about passive voice, but I thought it was about how the verbs are conjugated. I would consider your example to still be active. I was thinking more like "When combat begins..."(active?) vs "When combat is started..."(passive).

That's what I get for being a CS major pretending to know something about grammar.

Either way, I probably am being unduly nit-picky, though.

A quick google search tells me it's about whether the noun taking the action is the subject or the object, so I guess it's a matter of perspective. I stand corrected.
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