MetaStellar Stylebook

The goal of MetaStellar to help people enjoy speculative fiction in all its forms. And the secondary goal is to help authors promote their work, so the more people enjoy the site and visit it, the more the authors’ work will be promoted.

To that end, all articles should be, first of all, enjoyable to read. While fiction can be in any writing style at all, nonfiction essays, reviews, and news pieces should be as reader-friendly as possible. That means a light, accessible style — not a literary or academic ones. No footnotes or endnotes, just standard links where appropriate.

For technical style questions, the Associated Press Stylebook is the industry standard for blogs, magazines, and news sites.

For genre fiction, the Chicago Manual of Style is the industry standard.

Main elements of AP style for nonfiction

  • Spell out numbers zero through nine. Numbers 10 and over should be written as numerals.
  • There are spaces around an em dash — like this.
  • There are spaces around an ellipsis … like this.
  • Per the AP Stylebook, we say “sci-fi.”
  • Per the AP Stylebook, we say “TV show,” and the show’s name is in quotation marks. Book and other titles are also in quotation markets.
  • Use of singular “they” is allowed. Use “they,” “them,” and “their,” instead of “he or she,” “him or her,” or “his or hers.” If my friend wants some pizza, they can have some.
  • Use the day of the week within a seven-day range of the current date, and a date should be used for time ranges beyond seven days.
  • Lowercase “internet” and “web.” Use “website,” “webcam,” “webcast,” “webfeed,” “webmaster,” and “webpage” but “web address” and “web browser.” Use “voicemail.”
  • Each quote gets a new paragraph if there’s a change of speaker. Quotes from the same person are in a single paragraph, with the attribution after the first sentence or clause. “Yes,” he said. “I like cheese.”

Online reference articles for AP style

Our additions

  • We use the Oxford comma: I like apples, oranges, and pears.
  • US spelling and punctuation, including double quotes and commas inside quotation marks. “Hello,” he said. “I’d like some cheese.”
  • We do not use acronyms unless absolutely necessary.
  • We keep our sentences and paragraphs short and snappy.
  • Avoid brackets, colons, semicolons, slashes, and parenthesis. Rewrite into a simpler sentence or use an em dash — like this.
  • Except in direct quotes, avoid “etc.” Instead, rewrite the sentence or use “and so on.” So, instead of “I like apples, oranges, etc.” say “I like fruits such as apples and oranges,” or “I like apples, oranges, and so on.” In direct quotes, spell it out as “etcetera.”
  • Always include attribution. “Hello,” he said in a text message. If the attribution is to an online source, include a link. “Hello,” he said in a recent blog post.

Structural editing questions for nonfiction stories

  • Does this story make sense? Or is it missing key pieces?
  • Are all factual references supported by links to original sources?
  • Is the most important stuff right up top? Can a person who just reads the first paragraph get the main gist of the story?
  • Does the story have a lot of repetition?
  • Are sentences or paragraphs long and convoluted?
  • Does the author use too much passive voice? Active: He banged the table. Passive: The table was banged on by him.
  • Does the author promote conspiracy theories, hoaxes, or prejudices or make libelous or unfounded accusations?

Main elements of Chicago style for fiction

  • Use American spellings unless a direct quote is involved.
  • There are no spaces around an em dash–like this.
  • There are spaces around an ellipsis and between the individual periods . . . like this.
  • Titles of books, films, and TV shows are in italics.
  • Common prefixes like “semi,” “co,” “anti,” “post,” and “non” are used without a hyphen.
  • Numbers zero through one hundred and round multiples of those are spelled out, and numbers twenty-one through ninety-nine are hyphenated (so it’s 101 but ninety-nine hundred).
  • Percentages are always rendered in numerals.
  • Monetary amounts through one hundred dollars are spelled out; larger amounts are normally expressed by numerals or, for numbers of a million or more, by a mixture of numerals and spelled-out numbers.
  • Use the Oxford comma: I like apples, oranges, and pears.
  • The possessive of most singular nouns is formed by adding an apostrophe and an s; the general rule extends to proper nouns, including names ending in s, x, or z.

Our additions

  • Use of singular “they” is allowed. Use “they,” “them,” and “their,” instead of “he or she,” “him or her,” or “his or hers.” If my friend wants some pizza, they can have some.

Structural editing questions:

  • Does this story make sense? Or is it missing key pieces or have major plot holes? Are all characters clearly introduced? Is the setting clear, except in cases where it’s supposed to be a mystery?
  • Do motivations make sense, except in cases where they’re supposed to be a mystery?
  • Does the author use too much passive voice? Active: He banged the table. Passive: The table was banged on by him.
  • Does the author promote conspiracy theories, hoaxes, or prejudices or make libelous or unfounded accusations when referring to real people, organizations, or events?
  • Is the story readable enough that it only requires minor editing or does it require substantial revisions and the author should resubmit later?