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IMG Writer/Reviewer Style Guides

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#1 Matt Diamond

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Posted 06 January 2015 - 09:32 PM

The following is the IMG writers' style guide from 2003, by then-Senior Review Editor Jeff Wescott. I have removed a couple paragraphs and links that no longer apply.

Welcome to the IMG Writer’s Style Guide v1.0. This brief work is by no means a comprehensive guide to writing reviews, but it will cover several very important areas of that process. The purpose is for you to adopt these guidelines in your work for IMG, which will streamline the editing process and help you produce clean, professional copy.


Since you are a writer for IMG, we assume that you possess above-average writing ability. This means submitting clean copy that is reasonably free of typos, grammatical errors and follows a basic style. IMG is a magazine-format publication and must adhere to these tenets. The quality of published work is a reflection on everyone involved.

When crafting your review, remember these things:

Spell-checker – Always use it! Most word processors have this built-in function. It’s as easy as the click of the mouse. Do not turn in copy without using this handy feature.

Acronyms – When using an acronym, always spell it out on the first reference with the acronym enclosed in parentheses immediately after. “In this game, you will encounter several non-player characters (NPC).” There are exceptions to this rule, in the cases of very common acronyms like IRS or FBI.

Run-on sentences – Do not string multiple independent clauses together. Also known as “comma-splicing”, this can easily be avoided. In most cases, each independent clause can be punctuated with a period. In those rare occasions when you do want to string no more than two such clauses together, use a semicolon.

Semicolons – Don’t use these as often as you want to. The semicolon is easy to over-use. The only reasons to use the semicolon are to string two independent clauses together or to break up a list of subordinate clauses after a colon.

“It is” – This is one of the great exceptions in the English language. The conjunction “it’s” is for the phrase “it is”. Use it without the apostrophe (its) for the possessive form.

Numbering – Spell out the numerals zero through nine, use digits for the rest.


Objectivity – This should be your mantra when writing a review. Sure, a review is an expression of opinion, to an extent. Avoid judging a game strictly on personal bias. There may be times when you are working on a review for a game that you might not have chosen to play on your own. If that situation arises, remember to dissect the game based on the four scoring categories: graphics, sound, game play and value.

Scoring – We have four categories with which to rate a game in review (graphics, sound, game play and value). Include a sub-head for each category and dedicate several solid paragraphs to each. Include scores at the top of all submitted copy. As a rule, be relatively conservative with your scoring. Scores of nine or 10 should be reserved for “landmark” titles. Total scores of 9.5 or higher should apply only to “game of the year” titles.

Conclusions – Always wrap up the story with a strong conclusion. This can be just as important as the lead graph. The conclusion should include a summation of opinion about the game and final recommendations for the reader. This is also a good place to mention news about upcoming patches and expansion packs related to the title.

Patches – Refer to the version of the game being reviewed. Be sure to mention any bugs encountered in the game.

Performance – Readers have a wide variety of hardware. For those with dated systems, one of their first questions about a new game will be “How will this game run on my Mac?” Make sure to address how the game performed on your machine and make note of your specs for the readers’ benefit.

Research – Don’t just play the game, study it. As part of the research process, you should be reading the latest news about the title and surfing the appropriate forums. Read other reviews of the title. They can often be a source of good ideas, and may cover an aspect of the title you hadn’t thought of.

Guide to Grammar and Style http://www.andromeda...jlynch/Writing/


Word count – This really depends on the scope of the game. If you are reviewing the newest version of solitaire, then the review should be approximately 500-700 words. For most other games, your story should be at least 1,500 words.

Format – Your copy should be presented in the following order: game title, author’s name, scores and then the body of the review. Each scoring category should be under its own sub-head.

In 2005, then-Editor-in-Chief Ian Beck emailed the following guidelines to all IMG writers. (I have removed some paragraphs about the editorial process that no longer apply.)


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#2 Matt Diamond

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Posted 06 January 2015 - 10:03 PM

The following guidelines were emailed to IMG writers in 2005 by then-Editor-in-Chief Ian Beck. (I have removed a few sentences that no longer apply, about the editorial process.)

Hey folks,

A lot of you will be writing or turning in articles soon, so here's some things to remember when you're writing them. Some of this may be preaching to the choir, but I want to make sure everyone is on the same page, so read it anyway. :-)

Length: Although it varies for the article, 1500-2000 words is a good number to shoot for. There's no word requirement, of course, and you just can't write that much about some games, but for most if you're significantly under this number it means that you're probably not being detailed enough.

Bugs/performance issues: There's a whole spectrum of computers out there, and for most authors they are only testing a game on one. Even if a game runs smooth as butter, it's your responsibility to check around and see if there are people on other systems who are having difficulty. The IMG forums can be an excellent place to find people talking about how well the latest games run, so at minimum you should check up there. In the majority of instances we unfortunately can't test games on a spectrum of hardware, so you need to do your best to find this information on your own.

Fleshing it out: The majority of games you are going to review will have been out for PC for months or even years. This means that there are probably a fair number of reviews and previews on PC sites that you can use for information about the game. You plagiarize, of course, and I'll teach you the meaning of pain, but using PC reviews and previews for information will in all likelihood improve your article. A week or two is not a long time to get into a game, and PC sites can help a lot. Just don't go borrowing their opinions or ratings; that would make the writing the whole review pretty moot.

Balance: Even if you are completely in love with a game, remember to note its negative aspects. I've yet to find a game which is perfect, and by noting the negative things as well as the many positive you will make your article much more useful and credible.

Preview versus Review: There is a definite difference between previews and reviews. A preview is an introduction for the readers to the game. You want to introduce people to the gameplay, show them the door to the game's world. You are not rating the game, and you are definitely not talking about the game's performance ("probably have high sys. req." being acceptable; "ran at so and so frames per second on my G5" being totally superfluous). An excellent source for previews are the aforementioned PC sites.

Reviews, on the other hand, are mostly about analysis. Sure you should describe the game to a certain extent, but the focus should be on showing readers why you rated it the way you did. Be thorough, and remember to strive for objectivity at all times. Everyone has biases, you just need to be able to recognize your own and try to keep them from skewing your review.


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#3 the Battle Cat

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Posted 07 January 2015 - 09:32 AM

Pinned.  Thanks Matt.
Gary Simmons
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