Designer Talk: Use the Alphabet

Designer Talk

Designer Talk

When you’re a freelancer on a project and you’re organizing your turnover file, organize alphabetically unless you have specific instructions to not do so. Why? Because everyone is taught the alphabet at a very young age, and it’s the easiest, most automatic way of organizing words. Using the alphabet makes it easier for other people to look up information in your text (and, in general, the book your text will appear in).

If your text is a bunch of feats, organize them alphabetically by feat name, just like they are in the Player’s Handbook or Core Rulebook.

If your text is a bunch of spells, organize them alphabetically by spell name, just like they are in the Player’s Handbook or Core Rulebook.

And if your text is a bunch of feats and a bunch of spells, create a section header called “Feats” and list your individual feats after that, then create a section header called “Spells” and list your individual spells after that. Because “F” comes before “S” in the alphabet.

It seems like a no-brainer, but organizing your text this way helps your developer make sure that you have provided all of the text you were supposed to, and easier to compile your text with the text from other freelancers. This is especially the case if you had some leeway in what you were allowed to write (like “write 2,000 words on new tiefling rules” as opposed to “write 1,000 words on tiefling feats and 1,000 on tiefling spells”).

Of course, if your outline gives you specific instructions to follow a different order, obey the outline. And if you aren’t sure, ask!

(Notice I didn’t say “list your magic items alphabetically,” because your developer may want them organized alphabetically overall, or alphabetically within categories like rings, staves, and wondrous items. If it’s unclear or you aren’t sure, ask!)

This goes for stuff that isn’t rules, too. If you’re writing about various countries in a campaign setting, default to organizing them by country name (Argentina, Canada, Ireland, Mexico, Span, and so on) unless you’re instructed not to (for example, if the book is organized by continent and then by country).

Microsoft Word will even alphabetically sort lines or paragraphs for you. Just select the text, go to the Table menu, select Sort, make sure it says sort by “Paragraphs” and by type “Text,” then click OK and it’ll sort those paragraphs alphabetically. So you end up with something like this.

Canada: A bag of holding is a great place to cram an unruly moose.

France: A bag of holding is not suitable for holding champagne.

Jamaica: A bag of holding full of rum would get you really drunk.

United States of America: Buy this bag of holding, because FREEDOM!

Even if you list something in running text, like “People from Canada, France, Jamaica, and the USA all think bags of holding are great,” alphabetize the list.

Alphabetize spell names in your magic item’s Requirements line.

Alphabetize skill names in a stat block, and feat names, too.

Alphabetize paragraphs of plot hooks.

Alphabetize important people in a city.

Unless there is a really good reason to NOT alphabetize something (like, “I’m describing things in chronological order”), then alphabetize it.

(I was prompted to post this blog after reading a freelancer’s turnover who not only didn’t alphabetize his turnover’s sections [it was Feats, Spells, Equipment, Magic Items, and then Archetypes], but couldn’t be bothered to alphabetize the individual feats, spells, or magic items. Just remember: every minute a developer has to spend doing basic formatting on your document is one minute he could have been using to make your text more awesome.)

2 thoughts on “Designer Talk: Use the Alphabet

  1. Pingback: Five Moons RPG: Stone Giant stat block preview | Sean K Reynolds

  2. Pingback: Five Moons RPG: Stone Giant stat block preview | Five Moons RPG

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