Stop spelling mistakes in role-playing … or is it ‘role playing’? (Update 2.05.2012)

The hyphenation of RPGs was never an easy task, especially when there is a variety. Do you wonder how to spell role-playing terminology right? Test yourself:

Wrong or right?

  • I do research on role-playing
  • I do research on role playing
  • I do research on role-players
  • I do research on role players
  • I role-play

Consulting the Oxford English Dictionary Online it is:

  • I do research on role-playing
  • I do research on role playing
  • I do research on role-players
  • Rafael does research on role players

Again: role playing, to role-play (verb) and role player (noun). Language lives not in the house of Logic! But why do you write pen’n’paper role-playing games, massively multiplayer online role-playing games and live action role-playing games – all with a hyphen? Because it is an adjective of games.

What is clearly not possible is “roleplaying”. As there are plenty articles on role-playing games, but also book publications, you will encounter alternative hyphenations. Chaosium, the company behind the Call of Cthulhu pen’n’paper RPG, uses a compound: “roleplaying game”.

The University of Tampere suggests the following nomenclature which adds some clarification, for example whether to write P&P RPG, pen’n’paper RPG, tabletop RPG, etc. :

game master (not gamemaster), larp (no caps, used as a noun), role-play (with a hyphen), RPG (all caps), tabletop role-play (not pen’n’paper), live action role-play (not live-action)”

Update (2.05.12): The Oxford English Dictionary added larp in March 2012. The examples are horrible, but here we are. What does the entry mean? We can stop writing LARP with capital letters.  Thanks to Lizzie Stark for the news.

I’m currently working on a similar post for German, Polish, French and Spanish.

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4 thoughts on “Stop spelling mistakes in role-playing … or is it ‘role playing’? (Update 2.05.2012)

  1. Following dictionary definitions is so last century. We define our own hobby, not lexiographers. They are just supposed to catch up with real world usage, not decide it. Use whatever you are comfortable with, but make sure to be consistent. I will never divide or hyphenate roleplaying, not even for linebreaks!

    1. Dear Oliver,
      thanks for your comment. I agree with you that dictionaries are man-made and thus only agreed upon. I choose to follow spelling rules as it makes my and my reader’s life easier. Looking forward to read more from you.

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