A Short Guide to Spoiler Etiquette
There are few things that white people hate more than spoilers. Finding out that Snape kills Chewbacca with the One Ring before reading it yourself in book seventy-eight of the Cash Cow Chronicles is an intolerable burden to bear. So internet users decided to be courteous by blacking out any potentially revealing information when discussing their favorite articles of media. Sometimes movie trailers or book blurbs spoil, but those are official things and we as consumers can’t really do anything about them.
Most message boards will have an option to mark part of your text as a spoiler so it’s not immediately apparent upon viewing, while others will have a lot of blank space before the spoilers to catch the unwary eye. A common problem with this is that it’s often done so badly that it ends up spoiling things anyway. Here’s some examples of how to use and how to not use spoiler tags:
1. In Star Wars Episode VII, [blackout]Luke Skywalker dies.[/blackout]
THIS IS THE PROPER WAY TO DO MOST SPOILERS. Also acceptable is:
2. In Star Wars Episode VII, *SPOILERS*
[Hit the enter key a bunch of times]
Luke Skywalker dies.
3. In Star Wars Episode VII, [blackout]Luke Skywalker[/blackout] dies.
This one is moderately bad because it tells you that someone is going to die in this movie. A lot of people die in movies, but if they see this spoiler and then go see the movie, they’ll have it in the back of their mind that an important character is going to die. You have to be more thorough, like in #1.
4. In Star Wars Episode VII, Luke Skywalker [blackout]dies.[/blackout]
This one is problematic because it says that something is going to happen to this character, and the blackened space is short enough that you know it probably says “dies”, making the spoiler tags utterly worthless.
5. In Star Wars Episode VII, Luke Skywalker [blackout]dies *SPOILER SPACE*.[/blackout]
This solves the problem present in #4 by artificially extending the length of the area containing spoilers. It’s clumsy-looking, but it works.
6. In [blackout]Star Wars Episode VII[/blackout], Luke Skywalker dies.
I see this one far too frequently. They don’t tell you what article of media they’re going to spoil, but they have no problem with telling you that Spock is really Frodo’s father. If you’ve heard of the characters or you remember reading the spoiler while watching the movie, it is ruined for you.
7. In Star Wars Episode VII, [blackout]Luke Skywalker dies[/blackout] and then [blackout]Flash Gordon goes to Alpha Centauri with the Borg Cube![/blackout]
This doesn’t accidentally spoil anything, but it pointlessly separates things into two tags to be highlighted. Save yourself some time and avoid this irritation unless the two things you’re talking about are from different parts of the same series or something. Speaking of which…
8. In Star Wars: Shadow of the Darksaber Book IV, [blackout]Luke Skywalker dies.[/blackout]
This is the correct way. If you’re dealing with a longer work like a book series or a video game with a lengthy running time, it can be helpful to specify which section of it you’re spoiling.
9. In Star Wars: Shadow of the Darksaber [blackout]Luke Skywalker dies.[/blackout]
This is the wrong way to hide spoilers to a part in a series because the people still reading books one through three now have the epic climax ruined for them.
10. In the video game Star Wars: The Wrath of Ephant Mon, after you [blackout]defeat Darth Horribilus Binks on in the Holodeck,[/blackout] you can find a Yuuzhan Vong artifact hidden behind the chair.
Video game spoilers are a unique case because games are interactive and there are so many variables. Most video game plots are irrelevant, but you’re still rude if you spoil them for the aspies who care deeply about the plot to Pretty Combat Communist Rika-Chan: Sugoi! Edition. If you’re writing a FAQ or walkthrough for a game, it’s expected to be filled with unmarked spoilers unless it’s clearly labeled as “spoiler-free FAQ” or something.