What is a Style Guide?

A style guide is a set of standards for the writing, formatting, and design of documents that provide uniformity. Even if you aren’t familiar with them, you’ve likely read text that followed a style guide.

In text, book titles such as The Chicago Manual of Style (an entire book’s worth of style guidance!) are italicized to indicate reference to another work. Print books often use the very readable Baskerville font and the name of the font is capitalized because it’s a proper noun. Links on the internet are underlined and a different color to indicate you can click on them.

Styling isn’t unique to text- companies often standardize their font, colors, and logo so their marketing is specific to the brand. Kickstarter green is hex code #05ce78, San Francisco is the universal official font of Apple and Patreon has guidelines on how to use their logo.

Style guides for game text ensure consistency in how you communicate moves, mechanics, playbooks and more. Uniformity in text makes it easier for players to read and understand your game- if move names are always capitalized, readers know that Read a Situation is a move, even if they didn’t previously know about it.

The secret is there is no One True Way to write game text. You should follow grammatical rules, but games are so varied in genre and language that breaking with traditional style rules can help your game stand out (when used sparingly)! Style guides are not rules on how to write, but how to be consistent with what you have written.

When do you need one?

When do you not need one?

Who needs to see it?

When should you make it?

What is in a style guide?

You’ll find rules for using, formatting and styling language in a style guide, usually grouped into a few different categories. It isn’t necessary to fill out every category, or even to use every one, but it can be helpful to organize them if you have a lot of material in your style guide.


This is where you list what words are always capitalized and which are never capitalized. This is a good place to keep track of your game terms and make sure you aren’t capitalizing everything.

Here’s a few I used for Apocalypse Keys:

Upper Case: Keeper, Mystery, Darkness token(s)
Lower Case: apocalypse, basic move(s), hit, miss, mark XP

General Writing Conventions

What sort of punctuation you want to use or avoid- for example, many game publishers prefer em dashes over semi-colons and parentheses.

Specific terminology (ie roleplaying vs role-playing, Keeper vs GM, etc.)

An example from Apocalypse Keys:

When possible, use DIVISION instead of ‘the DIVISION’.

Tone, Content & Language

What sort of tone you want your text to have, whether it’s conversational, formal, or something in between.

Language you want to avoid like ableism, transphobia and racism. Sarah Grey’s Common Problems in Medical Editing (editors.ca) is a great reference for inclusive language

If you’re using Jay Dragon’s The Storyteller Technique notes or rules on the voice you use would go here.

Reminders to change passive voice to active and future tense to present, and watch for changes in tense.


Text Style & Formatting

How you want to use text styling and formatting like bold, italic, underline, strikethrough, etc.

How you refer to things like the book name, playbook, and move names.

An example from my game, Dead After Dinner
Use a different font for instructions regarding the Resentment stat, so players know that text always refers to the mechanic.



Anything that doesn’t necessarily fit into the previous categories, but is important to you can go here.

This is a good place to call out rule or term changes, so if the editor encounters outdated names they can change it to the updated text.

Here’s a couple examples from Apocalypse Keys:
Omen-class monsters (of the DIVISION) should only be used in flavor text (book intro, Mystery briefings), otherwise use Omen(s).
We changed the tense of move titles  Grasp Keys and Unlock Doom’s Door, watch for instances of Grasping Keys or Unlocking Doom’s Door.


The function of your game text is to communicate your game to the reader and text styling facilitates this. You can call attention to text by bolding it or use Title Case to indicate a name. Green text might always indicate successful roll outcomes and the GM could be called the Keeper. A style guide merely standardizes these decisions for consistency.

Style guides can get really granular, but they don’t have to be! Even having a few standards written down can go a long way towards more readable text. If you’d like to start with a template, here’s the style guide I made when editing Apocalypse Keys.