Typography Style Guide

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Revision as of 02:34, 12 August 2010 by Simons Mith (talk | contribs) (wording refinements, corrected links)

Typography Style Guide

This is a draft style guide intended as a first-pass suggestion for how character dialogue within campaigns should be marked up. For dialogue within the Wesnoth game user interface, see the UI Style Guide. For C coding guidelines, see the CodingStandards. For WML coding, see the WML Style Guide.


  1. http://www.alistapart.com/articles/emen/ The Trouble with Em and En (and Other Shady Characters)
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyphen
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dash
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellipsis
  5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quotation_mark

Character Usage Summary


en dash:                –     U+2013 (8211)
em dash:                —     U+2014 (8212)
horizontal bar:         ―     U+2015 (8213)   AKA quotation dash
minus sign:             −     U+2212 (8722)

Quotes and Apostrophes

left single quote:      ‘     U+2018 (8216)
right single quote:     ’     U+2019 (8217)   same character as curly apostrophe
left double quote:      “     U+201C (8220)
right double quote:     ”     U+201D (8221)
curly apostrophe:       ’     U+2019 (8217)   same character as right single quote

Other Characters (for reference)

ellipsis:               …     U+2026 (8230)   not used at present, use three full stops
hyphen:                 ‐     U+2010 (8208)   actual hyphen character, not used at present
                                              hyphen-minus is OK in the standard Wesnoth font

Characters being removed from within US-English dialogs

hyphen-minus            -     replace with U+2013, U+2014, U+2015, U+2212 as appropriate
straight apostrophe     '     same character as single quote, replace with U+2019
unsexed single quote    '     same character as straight apostrophe, replace with U+2019
backquote               `     shouldn't be present anywhere, replace with U+2018
unsexed double quote    "     replace with U+201C, U+201D as appropriate

Spacing Definitions

  • 'Unspaced' means no spaces before or after
  • 'Spaced' means spaces before and after
  • 'Leading space' means a space before, no space after
  • 'Trailing space' means a space after, but no space before

If the space is the first character after an open quotation, or the last character before a close quotation, it should be omitted. This means 'unspaced' elements will be unaltered, 'spaced' elements will become either leading- or trailing-spaced elements, and leading- or trailing-spaced elements may be unaltered, or may become unspaced.


Em Dash

"And now— An unexpected interruption!"
(trailing space em dash U+2014)
"—What was that?!"
(leading space em dash U+2014)
(abrupt start to a sentence)
"commands great respect — especially among soldiers"
(spaced em dash U+2014)
"Somewhere in this sentence—no need to guess where—is a parenthetical thought."
(paired unspaced em dashes U+2014)

In character dialogue you can use parentheses instead of paired spaced em dashes, but in speech the dashes are slightly more preferable.

En Dash

"The trident is 14–2"
(unspaced en dash U+2013)
(weapon attack statistics)

Things like weapon attack statistics and other game jargon should not be used in any dialogue spoken by a character.

high-priority–high-pressure tasks
(unspaced en dash U+2013)
(hyphenating compound words – in this case tasks which are both high-priority and high-pressure)
"S–gn–d, D–lf–do–"
(unspaced en dash U+2013)
(marking missing letters in a fragment of text)

These usages are all very rare in scenario dialogue.

Horizontal Bar

text=_"Gee, look at all them Injuns!"
source=_"― General Custer, 1876"
(spaced horizontal bar U+2015)

This is a sample quotation from tips.cfg; there are no instances of this usage in scenario dialogue at present.

Minus Sign

(outside of equations use leading space minus sign U+2212)
(sample from english.cfg; extremely rare in scenario dialog)

In speech, the word 'minus' should be written out in full; only game-specific scenario-related sentences should use the minus symbol inside scenario dialogue text.

Hyphen Minus

"Assemble a war-party"
(unspaced hyphen-minus)
(ordinary hyphen minus from the keyboard)

Note that there are no plans at present to use the genuine unicode hyphen ‐ U+2010


There is a Unicode ellipsis symbol, … U+2026, but at present we are using three full stops because in the standard Wesnoth font it looks basically the same. For our purposes, the non-speech uses of ellipsis – typically for quoting extracts of text, are very unlikely to be relevant. Please see references 1 and 4 for more details if you need information on this area. Normally an ellipsis should be spaced to separate it from the text, but when it combines with other punctuation, the leading space disappears and the other punctuation follows. For pauses in mid-word, use unspaced ellipses. For speech in the Wesnoth game, a trailing space is usually the most appropriate option. Examples:

alpha ... beta
(used for missing words in a quoted section of text)
gamma, ... delta
(missing words, mixed with punctuation)
(both very rare in dialogue)
(a word fading away to nothing)
(by far the most common usage in the Wesnoth game)
eta... theta
(a pause between words, or speech fading away from one word to the next)
(also common)
(not uncommon)
mu..., nu
(a pause or a fading away, mixed with some punctuation)
(not uncommon)
  1. Outside of speech, an ellipsis is most often used to indicate one or more missing words in a quotation.
  2. In speech, it most often represents a pause of some kind.
  3. Missing or unintelligible words can also be represented with an ellipsis.
  4. When an ellipsis occurs at the end of a sentence, it should be treated in one of three ways, depending on usage:
    1. If the ellipsis is being used to indicate one or missing words, it should be followed by a period.
    2. If it indicates one or more missing sentences, then it should appear after the period of the preceding sentence, and with a space on either side.
    3. If it indicates that the thought or quote is just trailing off at the end of a sentence (no missing words), then only the ellipsis is used, without a closing period.

Usages 4.1 and 4.2 are very rare in Wesnoth dialogue. 99% of the time, we follow usage 4.3. This means you would probably only have four dots (ellipsis plus full stop) if a character was talking or quoting at length and you cut off the character's speech partway through. In normal speech, four dots will almost always be incorrect. Similarly, there is no such thing as a five-dot (or more) ellipsis, so using any more than three dots will probably be wrong. Chinese and Japanese can use six- and variable numbers of dots respectively, but that doesn't mean we can in US-English.


"Now, listen carefully. This is a very long and complicated document:
“Firstly, all beer barrels shall be marked with His Majesty's Royal Seal.
“Secondly, all dogs shall wear spiked metal collars....”"
(usage 4.1)
(technically correct, but long screeds of text are bad practice in scenario dialogue anyway)
"Dear friends, we are gathered here today to celebrate the many achievements of me,
Delfador the Wise, the Noble, the handsome, he who defeated the dreaded Floating Nose
of the Swamp of Despair, and ate the Sacred Pie of..."
(usage 4.3)
(in this case, speech treated as fading because the listener's attention has wandered)

Usages in Speech

As far as this style guide is concerned, 'Speech' pretty much exclusively means in the campaign dialogue stored in Wesnoth's .cfg files. Usages in the online help, the user guide, the game's user interface and so on are separate (but related) matters.

The Difference Between Ellipses and Dashes in Speech

In speech, an ellipsis with a trailing space represents an indefinite or variable pause, or a character's words fading away to nothing, and an unspaced ellipsis represents an indefinite or variable pause in mid-word. An em dash represents an intentional pause, or an abrupt cut-off, possibly in mid-word. So that's the basic difference for Wesnoth's purposes; abrupt, use a dash, fading, use ellipsis.

Ellipses in Speech

If you start a character's speech with an ellipsis, it needs a trailing space:

"... Haldric?"
(trailing space ellipsis)
(tentative inquiry)

When mixed in with punctuation, the trailing space is lost:

"And that reason would be...?"
(unspaced ellipsis)
(leading question)

If a character is dying, their speech might fade away as follows:

"Urgh! I go on to the Sunlit Lands..."
(trailing space ellipsis)

For a character struggling to speak, you would normally use trailing space ellipses:

"Urgh! I go... on... to... the... Sunlit... Lands..."

You can fade away or pause in mid-word if you want, but generally only in longer words. Again, use only sparingly:

(unspaced ellipsis)

Mixing these makes a character's speech appear even more irregular, but may look untidy or incorrect even when it's intentional. Use sparingly:

"Urgh! I go on... to... the... Sun...lit... Lands..."

Darken Volk, the necromancer in Descent into Darkness, uses a lot of pauses in his conversation as he searches for just the right word:

"The northlands have been my... home... for many years,"
(trailing space ellipsis)

If a non-speaking character needs a moment in the spotlight, you can use an ellipsis for a wordless pause. Use sparingly:

(trailing space ellipsis)

Dashes in Speech

Dashes are used for abrupt or intentional interruptions, including when a character 'interrupts himself' by making an aside or changing who he is talking to in mid-sentence.

"You can't kill me! I am invinc—"
(trailing space em dash U+2014)
"Delfador, my friend — Li'sar, the book, if you please — would you mind looking at this strange old tome we found?"
(spaced em dash U+2014)
(two changes in who he's talking to, so two spaced em dashes)
"Delfador, old friend— Down, Fyrax! — Don't worry, he's harmless— Now, where was I?"
(trailing space, spaced and trailing space em dashes U+2014)
(a mixed combination of interruptions and changes in who is being addressed)
"—What was that?!"
(leading space em dash U+2014)

Theoretically, a short, sharp, but significant wordless pause could be marked with an em dash. However, the Wesnoth user interface is too sluggish to represent this properly, because you have to click or press keys to step through dialogue. For this reason, we advise against using it.

(spaced em dash U+2014)

Emphasis in Speech

We can now use bold and italic HTML-style markup inside WML tags. I recommend adopting this as promptly as possible.

  • For specialised game jargon terms, which should never be spoken in-character, use <b>bold tags</b>.
  • For emphatic speech by characters, and in-character use of jargon, (for example, if a human wizard used a word in the Drakish language), use <i>italic tags</i>.
  • For shouting, the continued use of CAPITAL LETTERS is acceptable. It is now a reasonably well established practice. Nevertheless, use it as sparingly as possible, as it becomes irritating when overused.


Apostrophes are easy; just use a right single quote for a curly apostrophe; it's the same character in Unicode (’ U+2019)

Quotes in Speech

The convention for highlighting game terms in dialogue has yet to be agreed. "This spear does 8–4 ‘arcane’ damage" does not look very good, even with sexed quotes. My suggestion is to mark specialised game terms in bold, now that simple HTML tags can be included in game dialogues. I believe that works OK now.

"This spear inflicts 8–4 <b>arcane</b> damage."
"Press <b>u</b> to undo the previous move."

Characters referring to things thay have heard will usually use sexed single quotes:

"Who is this ‘Mal-Ravanal’ fellow?"
"Your majesty, I will now sing ‘The Lay of Asheviere’"

When a character is reporting someone else's exact words, this is a rare occasion when double quotes would be used:

"Lord Aryad said, “If more trouble follows them here we should let them fight it out,
then we should ‘deal’ with the survivors, and make a compromise with the Dwarves.”"