MetaStellar Stylebook

The primary goal of MetaStellar to help people enjoy speculative fiction. 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 posts on the site should be, first of all, enjoyable to read. Nonfiction in particular — essays, reviews, and news pieces — should be as reader-friendly as possible. That means a light, accessible style, not a literary or academic one. No footnotes or endnotes, please. Just use standard links where appropriate.

That doesn’t apply to fiction, where the author’s voice is the number one priority.

For technical style questions, the Associated Press Stylebook is the industry standard for blogs, magazines, and news sites. So this is what we use for news stories, essays, reviews, and other non-fiction content on our site.

For genre fiction, the Chicago Manual of Style is the industry standard. This is what we use for short stories, flash fiction, excerpts and any other types of fiction on our site.

If you are a writer submitting an story or article, you don’t have to worry about all this too much, since our copydesk will take care of any style issues. But if you’d like to save us a little time when it comes to editing — or if you want to know why we make the changes we do — read on.

Main elements of AP style for nonfiction

The Associated Press Stylebook originally evolved as a way to help make stories readable when they were transmitted to newspapers over teletype machines, so there are no italics or boldface type. As professional journalists, newspapers and magazines transitioned to the Web, the style standards followed and today the AP Style is the default for all professionally-produced online publications.

  • 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.”
  • 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.”
  • Per the AP Stylebook, we say “e-book” (not ebook).
  • Keep paragraphs and sentences short. Originally, this was because stories were published in narrow newspaper columns. A long paragraph would take up the entire height of the page — not very appealing to readers. Today, many people read stories on mobile devices where, again, the columns are narrow. Short sentences and paragraphs make reading easier and stories more accessible.

Online reference articles for AP style

Our house additions to AP Style

  • We use the Oxford comma: I like apples, oranges, and pears.
  • When we mention books, shows, or movies, the title is a link, and there are no quotation marks. We link either to the official website, if the movie or show has one, or its Amazon page, its Wikipedia page, its Project Gutenberg page, or another online resource.
  • 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, and are perfectly happy with sentence fragments. And beginning sentences with “and” or “but,” and ending sentences with prepositions.
  • We 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,” she said in a text message. If the attribution is to an online source, include a link. “Hello,” she said in a recent blog post.
  • Use of the singular “they” is allowed. Feel free to use “they,” “them,” and “their,” instead of “he or she,” “him or her,” or “his or hers” when appropriate. If my friend wants some pizza, they can have some.

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 dogs” and “ninety-nine hundred dogs”).
  • Percentages are always rendered in numerals, such as “5 percent,” except when the number is at the beginning of a sentence.
  • 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 house additions to Chicago Style

  • 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.
  • We will break up long paragraphs and put quoted speech in its own paragraph. The reason is that people are often reading our stories on mobile devices, not in a printed book. That means that the width of the story is much narrower and paragraphs look longer than they are.