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    submitted 21 March 2007 @ 10:54
    edited 01 October 2010 @ 23:27

Improve your Writing Quality

Article written by The Silverlord
Rating: Superb! (5) (5 rating, 33 ratings)

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Here’s a question that has been debated for eons: does good spelling and grammar contribute to better role-play? Players often argue that if you can read posts and understand what’s happening, does it really matter if a few words are not spelt correctly?

Probably not. But gamers do generally agree that quality counts over quantity in terms of post description. A single well-formed sentence can hold greater weight than a paragraph of "fill" and flowery over-indulgence. Be cautious where you see players proclaiming that "para" role-play is the best you will find. Quality should be an over-riding factor.

Now, if increasing your awareness of grammar and learning to spell words can enhance the overall quality of your posts, that’s not necessarily a bad thing at all, is it? Likewise, increasing your vocabulary means you have more words to choose from.

This article will look at some tips and tricks, and the common pitfalls that players fall into when gaming. I strongly advise newcomers and players who are not completely confident of their post quality to have a read through. There may also be something here of interest to veteran players. Oh, and if you have some more tips to add, please post feedback!

Some Grammar Basics

Let’s start with some common issues experienced by newcomers. In general, where you see an apostrophe (‘) in the word, it is used to abbreviate (shorten) and indicate that some letters have been removed. Take “isn’t” for example: this actually means, “is not”—the ‘o’ has been missed out, and the two words joined together.

Making a distintion between “your” and “you’re” is perhaps the greatest grammatical failing of a role-player. I've been there, we've all been there. “Your” actually means belonging to (possessive), whereas “you’re” means quite simply, “you are”.

The following are incorrect:
“Your always carrying that thing, aren’t you?”
“This is you’re purse, I believe.”

The following is correct usage:
“You’re always carrying that thing, aren’t you?”
“This is your purse, I believe.”

“It, its and it’s” is another example. “It” and “its” means referring or beloning to (possessive), while “it’s” really means to “it is”.

Incorrect usage:
“It’s fangs glistened before me. I shrank back in horror.”
“Its a monster. Its a bloody monster!”

The correct usage:
“Its fangs glistened before me. I shrank back in horror.”
“It’s a monster. It’s a bloody monster!”

Another grammatical stumbling block is with “they’re”, “there” and “their” distinctions. “They’re” means “they are”, “there” refers to a place or location, and “their” is possessive again; belonging to.

Also, “to” and “too”: “To” can mean giving something to someone, whereas “too”, means as well as, or in addition to.

Now, here’s an interesting one. What happens in this scenario if the character name ends in an ‘s’?

Where is Frannie’s gold?

Well, either of these below will do. The s’s is a more modern approach.

Where is Mavis’s gold?
Where is Mavis’ gold?

Comments and Quotes

Interestingly, in the United States, it’s common to see commas and periods inside quotation marks. Example:

“He said, it was ‘water under the bridge,’ and I replied, ‘too right.’”

In the UK, for example, you might read (notice the comma and period lie outside the quotation):

“He said, it was ‘water under the bridge’, and I replied, ‘too right’.”

Both are valid. Note the use of demarcation—the main quote uses double quote marks, whereas the quotes within are single. If you used double quotes inside, you risk confusing the reader:

“He said, it was “water under the bridge”, and I replied, “too right”.”

Latin Abbreviations

Here’s what they mean. It’s probably good practice not to use them in role-play, or rarely.

i.e. = that is
e.g. = for example
n.b. = note well
etc. (et cetera) = and so forth ...

Avoid Heavy Use of Abbreviations

Leading on from the above, take a look at this:

“It wasn’t the case that he didn’t like the efforts of the man, just that it didn’t seem appropriate.”

Changing this to:

“It was not the case that he did not like the efforts of the man, just that it did not seem appropriate.”

Can you see that the latter sentence reads as much more formal and articulate? If you want to get a formal thing going, cut out your slang and abbreviations.

Don’t Repeat Words or Names

Try not to repeat words in the same passage of play. Of course you're allowed to repeat, but don't make it obvious. You’ll bore the reader to death.

“Lord Soth tried to ward the blow from the dragon. His gauntlet came up to block the dragon’s tail. Soth felt the full impact of the tail.”

Or how about:

“Lord Soth tried to ward the blow from the dragon. His gauntlet came up to block the creature’s tail. The death knight felt the full impact of the appendage.”

If you’re struggling to find different words, use an online thesaurus. Using those, you type in the word, and it will provide synonyms (words which mean roughtly the same thing). You can then replace words with these synonyms. Honestly, using a thesaurus will greatly improve your vocabulary, and enrich your posts. You will also begin to learn new words. Most Word Processors sport such a feature (in MS word, use Shift-F7), as well as a default Spell Checker. Experiment, and don't be afraid to look up synonyms you don't understand!

Metaphor, Simile, and Alliteration

Something all too rare indeed in role-playing terms is the use of metaphor and simile. Metaphor is where something is written and the meaning is the same but you really reference something else entirely, like:

“He was an impassible mountain range—no-one could beat him.”

This references a player to a mountain range (of all things). In other words, we imply that the range cannot be passed much as the player cannot be beaten at, say, combat. Simile is slightly different, where you compare and contrast two things more openly and explicitly. You’ll usually see the word “like” in similes:

“She was like a thorn. Her barb was deadly.”

Alliteration is where the first letter or syllables within each word sound the same, something like:

“Her malevolent madness contributed to her dark, deviant nature.”

As you can see, these techniques really help make sentences flow better or provide substance. Sentences formed with depth and feeling will encourage the reader to continue reading.

Explore Emotion

Emotion can really (really) draw the reader into your story and writing. Let your character experience sensations that the reader can directly relate to or empathise with. Something so simple as the smelling the scent of a flower, hearing the rush of a stream, or gazing at the beauty of a landscape can evoke the imagination.

Explore the senses and feelings of your characters as if you were really in their shoes and ground your story in facets of reality: you'll make new leaps and bounds in writing terms.

Word Choice

Write your sentences as you would say them (properly!). You don’t need to speak aloud, just do it in your mind. It’s also a good form of proof-reading—if something doesn’t sound right, try some word changes.

Every time you want to briefly pause, place a comma. Use a full stop for a longer pause, when you go onto another sentence. Don’t be afraid to write smaller sentences—it’s especially useful in tense situations:

“He was there. Behind the window. I knew he there, knew he was looking at me. Why? What did he want?”

Posting Tips

For one thing, don’t just type into the chat box or forum body and post without reviewing. Re-read what you’ve typed and make sure it makes sense. You don’t want the reader to misinterpret anything, and make sure it flows well.

If you’re unsure about any words, check them! Use an online dictionary and check the spelling is correct. Make the effort!

Accented and Special Characters

You can add a touch of class to your writing, by formatting certain words in their respective language. An example is the word elite, which is French, and refers to a group or class of persons enjoying superior intelligence, social or economic status. The proper French equivalent would read: élite.

Hold the ALT GR key and push letter keys for some accented characters. ALT GR+e = é

In windows, you can also hold down the ALT key, and bash out some numbers on the numeric pad (with NumLock on) to print out special characters. Keep the ALT key held down while you push the numbers, then release the ALT. For example:

ALT+0151 = — (Em)

Common Myths

Your teacher telling you use too many commas? Generally, don’t read too much into it. Commas are perfect for use when pausing or for parenthesis in writing, and help to make the sentence flow better and make reading easier. You can use commas to break away from the sentence meaning, but it’s often better to use an Em dash instead, which is used to take a sudden break in thought. Take this sentence:

“The snake slithered toward her on the ground, its eyes, red she noted, fastened on her own.”

It could certainly be argued there are too many commas. Let’s try this instead:

“The snake slithered toward her on the ground, its eyes—red she noted—fastened on her own.”


You may also have been told that sentences shouldn’t begin with certain words, like “because” or “and”, etc. Don’t be afraid to fly in the face of this, if the sentence still flows properly and makes sense. Two examples, each perfectly valid:

“He didn’t like marmalade. Because, well, he didn’t like it.”
“He didn’t like marmalade. And that was the way it was.”

Keep it Simple, Stupid

Let’s also remember: not everyone has a good grasp of English or will know what big words mean when you are posting. It can be good to keep your writing style simple and easy to understand. It makes things easier to read and digest.


At the end of day, different players are going to draw up their posts differently. Question just how much effort you put in though, and whether you can put more in to try and learn new words, meanings and generally bring something new and worthwhile to your language skills. If you see words you don't understand, don't ignore them, look them up online!

It’s easy to get into a rut with your writing, so take every opportunity to try writing sentences in different ways, using some of the tips outlined here.

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