Greetings, Brainstorm Brewery readers! I am the editor of ye olde BSB, and though I have lurked in the background until now, I figure it’s time for me to come out of the shadows, at least momentarily. You may know me from my work on Quiet Speculation, but I’m not here today to talk about MTG finance.
No, today I’m going to discuss writing about Magic. As editor for the site, it’s my job to make sure that words you are reading on this webpage are comprehensible. This doesn’t mean that everything you read here is always error-free, because much as I hate to admit it, I am fallible (and just to be clear, our writers are completely infallible). That said, I really, really care about things on the site being readable, consistent, and technically correct.
I’ve read a whole lot of MTG articles on dozens of different sites, and let me tell you: it’s much easier to take someone seriously when he concisely, correctly makes his point. Whether it is to improve your articles, blog posts, or tweets, being aware of some of the quirks of Magic writing can really help you come off in an intelligent way—and who doesn’t want that? It’s easy to find writing tips online, but deep discussion of Magic-specific style decisions is woefully absent from the web. My goal with this (potential) series is to start a dialogue between Magic writers, editors, and fans. I know I’ve had some questions about the correct way to write about Magic, so let’s work together and see if we can arrive at some universal guidelines.
A Capital Idea
Do you know the name of the game you play so devotedly? Judging by what I’ve seen basically across the entire internet, you do not. What does “Magic the Gathering” even mean? What gathering are we magic’ing, exactly? And since when is magic a verb? This seems questionable. Not nearly as annoying but just as wrong is Magic: the Gathering. The first word of a subtitle gets capitalized, folks. The name of the game is Magic: The Gathering. Only the mothership gets this right consistently. I almost never see it correctly elsewhere.
That’s a pretty cut-and-dry example about which I obviously feel rather strongly, but there are quite a few questions of capitalization that are not at all straightforward. Do I top eight a Daily Event or do I Top Eight a daily event? I’m a pretty big proponent of recognizing when something is a generic term, since most people capitalize far too many words (and I’m not just talking about the MTG community here. I mean most people). I fight back against this rampant upper-casing by generally taking a stance that non-specific terms are generic.
So the answer, in my mind, is that I top eight a daily event. Daily event and top eight both have special meanings in the MTG community and I often see them capitalized. I’m willing to be convinced to change my philosophy, but it’s hard to imagine more generic terms than these. Do they lose their meanings when written this way? I say no—but would love to hear arguments to the contrary.
It’s the same with pro tours and grands prix. Those are just types of tournaments. But Pro Tour Journey into Nyx gets capitalized, as does Grand Prix Portland, because they’re referring to specific events. They’re straight-up names, and thus proper nouns.However, writing that you played the pro tour in Atlanta and then stayed for the grand prix the following week is just fine. Pro tours and grands prix are not even exclusive to Magic. Don’t waste the energy it takes to hit that shift key.
Then we get to the really interesting stuff. Should we write Cube or cube? Is it Draft or draft? The answer is yes. As Magic writers, we capitalize format titles: Legacy, Modern, Draft. That said, we don’t Draft Innistrad. We draft Innistrad (if we’re lucky). Similarly, I might refer to my cube and be correct, but if I tell you my favorite format is Cube, I’m also correct (assuming that is factually accurate, which it is, because Cube). It all comes down to context. A little critical thinking goes a long way.
Whether or not we capitalize specific words is a surprisingly deep topic, and this is just skimming the surface of what kind of style decisions go into writing and editing a Magic article. Though it may seem inconsequential, people notice these things, and not just in Magic writing, either. In a down economy with a ton of applicants for every job, employers are looking for every excuse to eliminate candidates. You can be sure that many qualified applicants across industries of all types have been overlooked for small grammatical errors on a cover letter or resume. So even if you’re not a writer, there’s every reason to take this stuff seriously.
Where’s the Appeal?
I’m legitimately unsure if this kind of article will garner any interest. These are topics I constantly consider, but then, I deal with them on a near-daily basis. The casual reader may never give these kinds of things a second thought. If you’re a current or aspirational writer, these types of ideas may be a little more useful to you, but maybe it’s just me who thinks that.
In my experience, it’s extremely hard to find information on Magic-specific style questions. It’s easy to find the answer to general grammar questions, but once you get into something specific to Magic, it gets much harder to find a definitive source. I hardly have all the answers myself, but I do have opinions, logic, and the desire to be correct. And like I said, ideally this results in a running dialogue—I have just as much to learn as I do to teach, so let’s all work together.
If you are interested in seeing more articles like this, let me know! I’m not the type of person who lives and dies by comments (to be honest, I often don’t even read them), but in this case, I’m worried that this topic is only interesting to me. If you want to see more, let me know in the comments or on Twitter at @dbro37. If you have an element of Magic style you’d like me to discuss, name it! Let’s get a dialogue going and see if we can elevate Magic writing a tier or two. Thanks for reading.