A Balancing Act: Style Guides and Proofreading

As a quick update, since our last blog post in March, we have finished editing the main scenario script for Tales of Destiny 2! We are currently focusing our efforts on the monster that is the quiz book, which is basically a final boss for us, honestly. Three forms and everything, considering our conga line of work…

Anyway, remember when we said there would one day be a blog post about commas, apostrophes, and the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS)? Well…

Judas is about to be hella bullied.

Translators ensure that English-speaking audiences can understand the text, while localization editors ensure that those audiences are experiencing that text as Japanese speakers would within the context of their own culture. Both of these groups make it so that players can enjoy a game in their native language to the fullest without being pulled out of the experience; however, there are a few other things that can inhibit that experience: typographical, grammatical, and consistency errors.

While these things seem minor on the surface, we can all surely relate to those moments where we’re deep in a game and suddenly notice a typo (or three). One typo is all it takes to go from focusing on an intense part of the story to thinking about a misspelled word, even if it’s just a brief moment. And when there’s a lot of them? Even more time playing is spent pausing to take note of those errors, making them even worse. Sometimes they’re simple, like “litttle” instead of “little,” but other times they are far more harmful and can entirely alter what a character is saying. This can make a scene’s tone incorrect or entirely incomprehensible.

There are also times when there is not technically a typo, but something sounds awkward or context makes it so that things read incorrectly. For example, while “white and black” and “oranges and apples” are not inherently incorrect things to say, they just aren’t what we are used to seeing and can cause one of those brief pauses when reading. Usually those words are said the other way around when paired together. As for context, take these two strings of text from the quiz book that we recently proofread and had a good giggle over:

Technically, yes, the prankster in Aigrette is trying to sell people a pot—a container used for storing things like food or plants; however, saying only “pot” definitely makes this sound a little… different. This is where proofreading becomes a boon, and our editors change this to either “a pot” or “pots” instead for clarity!

Of course, typos aren’t all that can change the meaning of what a character is saying. You know what they say…

Commas, colons, semicolons, dashes… Grammar exists for a reason, and it goes a long way! It’s the difference between eating with grandma Judas and literally eating him. Even the length of a dash makes a big difference. As a simple example, “there are four–six dogs” and “there are four—six dogs” can mean entirely different things. The former (en dash) is saying there are between four and six dogs present, whereas the latter (em dash) could be the speaker correcting themselves and saying there are actually six dogs.

There’s also consistency. Seeing “1000” in one line and “1,000” in the next can be disorienting. The same can be said for switching between between different forms of English, such as “traveling” (American English) and “travelling” (British English). So how do we keep consistency? Let’s talk about style guides.

What’s a style guide?

A style guide is a set of standards for writing and formatting documents. Style guides are used as a resource to ensure that the contents of a publication are clear, consistent, and cohesive. We at Lumina Tales highly value consistency, so building an internal style guide was one of the first things we did as we began tackling the text of Tales of Destiny 2 years ago.

We frequently refer to this style guide whenever editing, and to this day we continue to update and maintain it as more things pop up. A few years ago we discussed whether or not to put commas in numbers in the thousands, since at that point we only came across numbers that high. At the time, we agreed not to put commas due to some menu issues. We said that if we came across anything in the ten thousands, we could cross that bridge and go back and change things. Well, the bridge came recently, and we went back and changed it everywhere! Sometimes it just goes like that.

Our style guide actually covers not only typographical and grammatical points but also localization decisions like the names of characters, cities, items, and artes. We’ll talk about the localization side of things another time. For now, let’s focus on crossing the Ts and dotting the Is. So how did we go about building an internal style guide?

Using existing style guides

Many style guides exist and have specific rules that suit their applications. For example, MLA is useful for academic citations and formatting; APA is used in social, health, and natural science; AP is the standard for journalism; and CMOS is employed among fiction and non-fiction publishers, as well as academic papers in the humanities.

Interestingly, we have noticed that the gaming industry tends to put a comma before “too” in certain sentences. For example, “I like dogs, too” instead of “I like dogs too.” While there is some precedent for that comma in the industry now, we usually refer to CMOS when making decisions, as it is a common style guide and is easily accessible online. CMOS says that in cases like our dog example, there is no need for a comma before “too.” The exception is when “too” separates the verb from its object and benefits from emphasis and clarity (e.g., “I, too, like dogs.”). Coincidentally, MLA says the same! This is what we follow in our internal style guide.

There are a few other factors that have influenced our internal style guide as well.

Referencing precedents in the Tales of series

As with other things like localization decisions, we often turn to precedents in existing titles in the Tales of series. Let’s take a look at em dashes:

The first example comes from Tales of Vesperia, while the second is from Tales of Xillia. There are a couple things we can take note of here. First, em dashes in these games are formatted as two hyphens (-) instead of a proper em dash (—). Second, in Tales of Vesperia, there is no space before or after the em dash. In Tales of Xillia, there is no space before the em dash, but there is a space after it. As aficionados of the Sacred Em Dash (may it grace us with its versatility), we properly format them. As for spacing, we chose the route of Tales of Vesperia, which happens to be the rule for CMOS as well.

Let’s take a look at ellipses now.

The top two screenshots are from Tales of Berseria, while the bottom two are from Tales of Graces. Once again, there are a few things of note here, particularly with spacing and capitalization. In Tales of Berseria, there is always a space after an ellipsis. If the clause following an ellipsis is independent (it can stand alone as a sentence), then the first word of it is capitalized. If the clause following the ellipsis is dependent (it cannot stand alone in a sentence), then there is no capitalization. Tales of Graces follows similar capitalization, but it removes the space after the ellipsis if the clause following it is dependent.

Based on this information, we wrote our internal style guide to use capitalization when the following phrase is independent and forgo capitalization when it is dependent. CMOS says to put spaces between ellipsis dots ( . . . ), but this might cause formatting issues within the context of the game. With this in mind, we follow the ellipses rules from Tales of Berseria entirely, as you can see in these two screenshots from our Tales of Destiny 2 patch:

Considering game-specific mechanics

This brings us to the final point we have considered when building our internal style guide: game-specific mechanics. The issue of ellipses is a perfect example of grammar rules we have chosen based on how things appear in the game. There are a few other rules we have made based on this as well. These include possessives for singular nouns that end in S, such as business, goddess, or… Judas, who continues to be our problematic character here at Lumina Tales.

We will once again direct your attention to Judas as the next most, er, “problematic” person.

Several of us at Lumina Tales are not fans of having an additional S after the letter S and prefer the AP style guide’s rule for possessives. AP says that, for singular proper nouns ending in S, only an apostrophe comes at the end (Judas’ sword, Judas’ mask, Judas’ suffering).

Game-specific mechanics affect this. Tales of Destiny 2 allows players to rename their characters. So unless we changed coding simply for possessives, words like business and the names of non-playable characters like Dymlos would follow one grammar rule (e.g., business’, Dymlos’), while renamed characters and Judas would follow an entirely different rule (e.g., Alexis’s, Judas’s).

As mentioned before, we value consistency, so that was the priority for us. In light of the renaming mechanic, we use both an apostrophe and S after everything. This is what CMOS prefers, anyway!

Bringing it all together

So how does this all look in the end? Let’s take a peek at an example we used during our Rappig Crossing panel back in September 2021.

The first quote is post-localization editing, while the second is what we decided on after proofreading. Only two things of note here! As mentioned, we capitalize the first word of clauses after ellipses if those clauses are independent. In this case, “Girls aren’t into guys that are too aggressive…” is independent, so we went ahead and capitalized “girls.” In the same clause, “guys that are too aggressive” is technically incorrect; however, Loni is the one delivering this line, and Loni is very casual! If this were Judas or menu text, we would change “that” to “who.” Instead, since this is Loni, we kept “that.” That’s what people who speak casually would normally say!

While grammar is important, bringing characters to life requires some flexibility. Maintaining characters’ voices will always be vital to us so that you all can experience these wonderful characters in English as authentically as possible. Editing and proofreading in general are not strict like algebra, and a careful balance must be considered at all times to prevent things from portraying a character incorrectly or otherwise reading awkwardly.

Now, back to that quiz book…

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