The Writer’s Toolbox – Get Your Game On

Summer is a time for fun and games, and whether you’re out playing tag with the kids or hiding indoors with Monopoly, chances are you really want to make sure you’re following correct usage.

Or is that only me?

Kidding aside, I’m frequently asked how to style names of games?italics or roman, quote marks or capitalization? If you’re planning a party, writing the office newsletter, or including the name of a game in your novel, this quick guide should cover your basic questions.

Capitalize Branded Games
Branded games like Monopoly and Scrabble are capitalized and written in roman type?plain, unitalicized type?with no quotation marks (quotation marks in this article are for emphasis only).

Though these names are registered trademarks, you aren’t required to include the little ® symbol. But be sure to check the exact spelling and punctuation/capitalization with the manufacturer of the game. For example, Hasbro indicates that “Sorry!” includes an exclamation mark?but “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” does not come with a question mark, according to the game’s manufacturer, Pressman Toys. And “UNO” is in all-caps, per Mattel.

Don’t Capitalize Non-Branded Games?Usually
In general, don’t capitalize games that aren’t specific product names. For example, it’s “chess,” “tag,” “old maid,” and “roulette.” However, if the games contain a word that you’d capitalize normally, then do so?like in “Russian roulette” and “Chinese checkers.”

What about games that use a brand name but aren’t really affiliated? For example, Frisbee is an actual brand, but chances are you bought an off-brand version, not the real thing (I’ve never even seen a real one). If you’re planning an ultimate Frisbee tournament and you’re not using real Frisbees, you can choose to capitalize or not; just be consistent. That being said, since Frisbee is a registered name, using the word to describe an off-brand toy probably isn’t authorized by the company; however, it’s unlikely there’ll be any issues if you’re just putting together an office newsletter.

The Special Case of Electronics
The jury’s out on whether to italicize the names of electronic games, particularly video games. While some prefer roman type for simplicity’s sake, others argue that a complicated video game deserves the same level of recognition (and therefore italicization) as a film.

Some people even differentiate among video games, depending on the complexity; so “Pac-Man” (note the hyphen, per the manufacturer) might not be italicized, but Grand Theft Auto would be. That can get really complicated, so I recommend you choose one or the other. And either way, be sure to keep the spelling and punctuation in line with how it’s done by the manufacturer.

Above all, though, always keep your styling decisions consistent. Now enough technical stuff?go have some fun!

Christina M. Frey is a book editor, literary coach, and lover of great writing. For more tips and techniques for your toolbox, follow her on Twitter (@turntopage2) or visit her blog.