Cliqist Style Guide
All rules, of course, are made to be broken. But don’t break them until you’ve mastered them.
Topics to cover
- Anything relating to indie gaming.
- New game announcements
- New Kickstarter campaigns
- Crowdfunding Hall Of Fame
- Indie game history
- Crowdfunding scams
- Developer interviews and profiles
- Guest developer articles
- Recurring features on specific genres or games
Where to Find Stories
- Tigsource Forums, particularly the DevLogs board.
- Kickstarter Video Games
- CFN Gaming Discord
- Cliqist Discord
- ProjectMQ Slack
- Other gaming sites
- Suggest some!
Use Explicit Headlines
Readers look at the first couple of words of a news headline, and don’t always continue reading. If someone saw just the post headline in Google or Google News, would they know enough about the topic to click through? Headlines should describe the post and be written in a fairly straight manner. Proper names and identifiers should be used whenever possible.
Make your headlines Google-friendly. Readers should be able to scan headlines and see what posts are about immediately
- Avoid anything indirect (ie, sarcasm, dumb jokes, too general)
- Preface titles with post types where applicable, ie
- “Ask New Normative: Am I A Racist Shitbag?”
- “Cliqist Gives: Come And Get Some Great Indie Games For Free”
- Bad title: “The Long Dark Story Mode Release Details”
- Good title: “The Long Dark Devs Look to Deliver on Broken Promises”
- Bad title: “There He Goes Again”
- Good title: “Kingdom Come Developer Can’t Stop Far Right Shitbaggery”
Many readers skim down a blog in a matter of seconds looking for something of interest to catch their eye. A good headline can reel them in, but if a post begins in a way that’s turgid or boring, they’ll be on to the next item before they’ve hit the meat of what your post is about. Most posts don’t need cute setups, cut to the chase. It should be as punchy and straightforward as possible. Often, the lead, can be a sentence or two, should be followed by a paragraph break, as this increases its impact.
- Get right to the point
- Avoid throat-clearing or throwaway jokes
- Tell the story in the first sentence
- Bad lead: “I love Jello.”
- Good lead: “Everyone’s favorite dessert Jello makes both a great addition to your brown bag lunch and shots at a frat party.”
- Bad lead: “Webapp Hijinx makes sure you can always manage your toenail clippings from any Internet-connected computer.”
- Good lead: “Webapp Hijinx manages your toenail clippings online.”
- Bad lead: “I have what I believe is the best setup ever.”
- Good lead: “Keyboard-sharing application Synergy lets me use both my Mac and PC with one keyboard and mouse.”
Straight News: The Enemy
Let’s leave no doubt: Straight news is the enemy.
What’s straight news in the Cliqist context? Any dull industry news likely to be of no interest to the average reader, especially when presented in a way that offers no reason to care.
Look for these warning signs
- Announcing release dates or demos
- Random statistics
- Random figures like “$152 million in revenues”
- Flat sentences that sound like they could be lifted straight from a press release
- PUBG hits 3 million concurrent players, breaking its own record
- The Darkening Of Tristram Eevent Returns To Diablo III Next Week
- The Escapists 2 Is Heading To Switch In January
- January 2018 Xbox One And 360 Free Games With Gold Announced
Obviously there’s pressure to cover things in a comprehensive way. But there are plenty of clever ways to do it that don’t resort to this kind of stuff. At the very least, if some trade-y news is so important that you can’t not post it, have the decency to find a unique angle and explain to your readers why they should care. If you can’t, it’s the wrong item to write.
Although Cliqist is bloggy and tends to post quite a few thought pieces, I statements should be avoided. In fact, there should be almost no I statements in your articles. Saying I, me, my opinion, myself is inherently selfish and makes the article about you. While every article should be personalized, readers need to be invested in what you’re saying. Chances are they don’t know you personally, so making it all about you is a surefire way to lose your reader.
Paragraphs should be as short as possible. Generally, that means between two and three sentences. AP and Reuters articles are a good guide for this. Even when a paragraph break would not necessarily appropriate in a traditional sense, one should be inserted if the paragraph gets too long wherever it makes the most sense to do so.
All images should be uploaded to the site rather than hotlinked. Never hotlink anything. If you have a large gif file which is beyond 5mb, put it on a dedicated image hosting site, such as imgur.
- Images should be named as “gamename1.jpg” “gamename2.jpg” and so on.
- Images should be centered and set to display full size. You can change this for stylistic reasons.
- One image for every 250 words is a good guideline.
- Use Google reverse image search for images that are too small to find a larger version.
- For non game images use Pixabay.
There is no need to completely rewrite all aspects of a story. It is legal under fair use laws to quote portions of an article you’re providing commentary on, as long as you don’t quote the whole thing, and credit properly. You can use this to get the basic facts of the story stated, rather than just retyping them in your own words. This saves energy, while ensuring the facts themselves are communicated accurately, it also serves to break-up the text.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of block quoting too much, too often. Resist the urge to block quote a passage that’s just restating your lead. You’re not helping the reader if you’re feeding them three or four paragraphs of block quoted text from a random Gamespot story. Block quotes, as in blogging: keep it short.
What Does a Good Post Look Like?
- To put this very plainly: a good post is almost always a short post. Think concision.
- Every post should have an angle.
- One joke per post, and one point — if you really have several points, list them
- Posts can be anything — inspired by a flickr photo, a blog post, news story, something you overheard, something you’ve always wondered.
- Be short.
- “It’s too random/stupid/weird to post!” — it isn’t. Be weird.
- Be fast, but not first. Readers forget Friday’s big story by Monday morning, so don’t save that extra post about it until then. However, don’t worry about breaking the big story, someone else already has. You’re better off providing commentary; quickly.
- Use lists (useful all the time: from a long, turgid article, a great list can be a good way to summarize).
- Explain big stories in a FAQ or Q&A format (also endlessly useful for backgrounders on people, events, etc).
- Link to other sites in every post.
- Treat everyone from random bloggers to famous publications on same level as an organizing principle.
Context, Context, Context!!!
There’s nothing worse for a reader than not knowing who it is you’re writing about. Always identify, always give context: Angry Windbag Phil Fish, Kotaku Editor Stephen Totilo, former pop star and current Kabbala enthusiast Madonna, gaming news hellscape N4G.
In-post links to previous items on the same topic can be a useful way of adding context, but can’t be relied on as a crutch alone.
Related: Spell out acronyms the first time you use them in a post, even if it’s something everyone should know. Because not everyone does know.
Using Humor… Or Not
- Our site is supposed to be hilarious all the time, right? Uh, no. Save jokes for when you’ve got a good one, and humor for when you’re making yourself laugh.
- The tone should be light. Serious articles are fine, and can be written and published with absolute seriousness. Articles which take a serious tone should not have light-hearted jokes. Biting commentary and satire are fine though, provided it doesn’t get in the way.
- When you do make a joke, don’t overdo it. One joke/punchline an item, unless you’re a genius.
- If you’re blockquoting something really funny, don’t be afraid to let the person you’re quoting have the last word. Adding a kicker for the sake of adding a kicker is pointless.
Miscellaneous But Incredibly Important Advice
- If you have an exclusive, play it up — ideally in headline.
- “Everyone already saw this on randomblog.net, so I won’t bother posting it” — Who cares, post it with your own spin.
- When appropriate, flood the zone — lots of follow-up posts on a previous post, or when a big story is breaking.
- We are not using typewriters. Sentences always only take one space after their period.
Usages and Spellings
- Etc means “et cetera,” as in “and so forth.” It is spelled ETC. If I ever see ect. again, I will light myself on fire.
- Et al means “et alii” as in “and others,” meaning literally more people or things.
- Ad nauseam is the most commonly misspelled, and means “to a ridiculous degree.”
- Which/That I always go wrong with these. My cheap rule is “When in doubt, use ‘that.'”
- That/Who Easy! That is for things, who is for people. “He’s the dude who was doing kegstands!” “That’s the keg that was getting standed!”
- Don’t overuse and misuse constructions like “developer/prankster/murderer.” Slashes actually indicate alternatives, not combined ideas or facts. Also, slash-phrases read horribly. Use very sparingly.
- Spell out all numbers from one to ten.
- Spell out a number if it is the first word of a sentence.
- Numerals go before percentages and figures bigger than 999,999. For example: there are 5 million people here, but only 2 percent of them are cool. The one exception is for fractions of millions, billions, gazillions, etc.: half a million or two thirds of a million.
Following proper SEO guidelines is important to the success of any site, whether you like it not. For each post the following should be done with very few exceptions:
Yoast SEO and Keyword
- Add focus keyword
- Fill out snippet until status bar is green. Must include focus keyword.
- Focus keyword in title
- Focus keyword in first paragraph
- Focus keyword used approximately once for every hundred words.
- Focus keyword added to image alternative text
- Focus keyword
- Major platforms
- Do not add ‘indie games” or “video games.” Everything we cover fits in those categories
- Subheading using Heading 2 centered every 300 words. Or once in posts 600 words or less.
- Short and to the point
- Descriptive regarding what’s next in the article
Never Ever… Usually
“Interesting” and “funny” and “of interest.” If it’s funny or interesting, that’ll prove itself, and it’s actually not funny or interesting if you have to describe it as such. See also: “Arguably.” (Fuck no.)
Do not ever suggest in your writing that you do not care about something, or are bored by it, or that you do not know about something, or that you are above it. If you don’t care, are bored, or are confused, or the like, don’t write about it. Or fake it. Nothing is more off-putting for a reader than arriving at a post pre-bored and pre-disinterested. No apologies, no regrets.
Ask yourself: “Self, does this sentence really need to begin with ‘and’, ‘but’, or ‘or’?¨ The answer is usually no.
Limit use of really, very, kind of, sort of, gonna, kinda, literally, apparently, and so on.
Headlines and Subheads
- Make sure the country, subject, person, or band written about or interviewed is mentioned in the title or subheading.
- Do not capitalize prepositions, conjunctions, and articles of four or fewer letters:
- The words the, a, an, of, but, for, from, with, etc. are not in caps, while the words above, within, about, however, etc., are capped.
- ln headlines and subheads, replace all double quotes and italics with single quotes.
Identifying Story Characters and Interview Subjects
Always identify someone by both first and last names the first time they are mentioned. Afterward, refer to a subject by surname alone. Although we often used first names in the past, this approach tends to come off as flippant; and in some instances, like when writing about public figures, it implies an intimacy that just isn’t there.
ln an interview’s first exchange of dialogue, the voice of the site and the interviewee’s first and last names should appear in bold font, even though they’ll have already been mentioned in the introductory paragraphs. The colon following a name should also be in bold. The rest of the interview will identify each speaker simply by the font: The site voice will be in bold, and the interviewee’s responses will be in regular font. lf more than one person is being interviewed, the speaker will then be identified by a surname to clarify who is responding to our questions.
Cliqist: What’s up, you guys? Greg, some folks say you’ve got a drug problem.
Greg Micek: Who told you that?
Joanna Mueller: Oh, here we go.
How many times have you been to rehab, Greg?
Could you explain that a little more? l don’t understand.
Mueller: What Greg means to say is.
Micek: Shut up, l know what l mean to say.
Reviews are are not a rundown or analysis of every feature in the game, but rather an editorial on your experience with it. You can write in any style, and don’t need to touch on every aspect of the game. If, for example, you simply talk about how a game helped you get through a rough couple weeks of being sick then that’s great! Creativity is more important than technical analysis.
- Anything more than 500 – 1,000 words is probably too much.
- Scoring graphics can be founding by searching “review” when adding an image
- 1 – 5 star scale. It’s an overall score. No sub-category scores. No half stars
- 1 star is awful
- 2 stars is almost all bad but has some redeeming qualities
- 3 stars is average but somewhat forgettable
- 4 stars is very good but short of being a classic
- 5 stars is fantastic, but doesn’t have to be perfect.
- A pros and cons section with 3 – 5 points for each.
- 50 – 100ish word conclusion giving an overall recap of your impressions.
- You’re strongly encouraged to post additional articles about the game within and after the review window talking about various things. Want to put together a couple hundred words on the main characters hair style? Great! Want to do a poem about how bad the control scheme is? Awesome! I’m not a fan of “here’s the review, now we’ll never talk about the game again,” so getting more mileage out of the game is ideal.
- Look here for formatting the end of reviews: http://cliqist.com/2017/11/21/theres-no-rush-to-play-gold-rush-the-game/.
This doesn’t cover every aspect of posting to Cliqist, but if you follow the guidelines above you’ll undoubtedly come out of the experience a better person.