English Guidelines

This is a quick overview of the basic English conventions in use in the Archive. If you ensure submitted stores adhere to them, your readers will thank you.

The Archive is based in America, and judging from traffic the majority of its userbase is American, so our standard is going to be American English. That being said, British English is perfectly acceptable; we have a number of British works already on the site, and aren't going to discourage more.

We are not providing pre-reading or editing services - if we don't like how a story is written, think a different word would have been a better choice, think a story needs a complete rewrite... that's too bad. The author's work is their own, and it's not ours to change. We just want to make sure all the stories in the Archive are technically correct. If you are a writer/author, I strongly recommend picking up Stephen King's memoir On Writing; the second half of the book is an excellent discussion of how to write effective fiction.

In the following examples, red text indicates incorrect style or formatting, green text indicates correct style or formatting.

Spelling

Make sure everything is spelled and capitalized correctly. A basic spellcheck in a word processor is a good start, but you also need to check for things like your/you're, there/their/they're, et cetera.

A reference guide for correct spelling and capitalization of important characters, locations, events, and terms used in-universe can be found here.

Grammar

If a verb isn't conjugated correctly or tenses are confused, correct it. You'll have to make a judgment call based on context as to which is the "correct" way to correct these sorts of errors.

I has a cheeseburger.
I have a cheeseburger. or I had a cheeseburger.

I quickly stand up and handed my test in.
I quickly stood up and handed my test in. or I quickly stand up and hand my test in.

Punctuation

99% of the time, sentences should end with a single punctuation mark, whether it's a period (.), question mark (?), or exclamation point (!). There are two exceptions.

An ellipsis (...) can end a sentence; in our context it typically indicates a "trailing off" into silence. It is always three periods with no spaces between them, no more, no less.

"I don't know if that's such a good idea.." Twilight said.
"I don't know if that's such a good idea..." Twilight said.

If an ellipsis exists in the middle of a sentence, there should never be a space between the leading word and the ellipsis and there should always be a single space between the ellipsis and the trailing word.

She looked around once ...twice...three times before moving on.
She looked around once... twice... three times before moving on.

A sentence can also end with a combination of a question mark and an exclamation point (?!); this is often used to indicate asking a question excitedly. The exclamation point and question mark can go in either order (?! or !?), but there should only be one of each.

There should never be multiple exclamation points (!!!) or question marks (???) at the end of a sentence.

Dialogue

This is the trickiest part, because the rules around correct dialogue punctuation are fairly intricate.

There are two parts to sentences containing dialogue: the dialogue itself and the dialogue attribution phrase, which lets the reader know who is saying the dialogue. For example: "I miss Canterlot," said Spike. Here, "I miss Canterlot," is the dialogue, and said Spike is the attribution phrase. In sentences following this format, the dialogue will always end in a comma, exclamation point, or question mark.

"I miss Canterlot." said Spike.
"I miss Canterlot," said Spike. or "I miss Canterlot!" said Spike. or "Do you miss Canterlot?" said Spike.

If the attribution phrase comes before the dialogue, a comma should be used to separate them. No other punctuation is acceptable.

Spike said "I miss Canterlot!" or Spike said. "I miss Canterlot!"
Spike said, "I miss Canterlot!"

Sometimes, attribution phrases can be dropped in the middle of a sentence of dialogue. In this case, commas should be used to separate the dialogue from the attribution.

"I miss Canterlot" said Spike "but I like Ponyville too."
"I miss Canterlot," said Spike, "but I like Ponyville too."

If the attribution phrase is separating two sentences of dialogue, it should be attached to the first sentence with a comma, and separated from the second by a period.

"I miss Canterlot," said Spike, "What about you, Twilight?"
"I miss Canterlot," said Spike. "What about you, Twilight?"

Capitalization is also important when it comes to sentences with dialogue. The attribution phrase should never be capitalized, unless it comes before the dialogue.

"I miss Canterlot!" Said Spike.
"I miss Canterlot!" said Spike.

If the attribution phrase splits a sentence of dialogue, the second half of the dialogue sentence should not be capitalized.

"I miss Canterlot," said Spike, "But I like Ponyville too."
"I miss Canterlot," said Spike, "but I like Ponyville too."

However, if the attribution phrase is separating two sentences of dialogue, both sentences of dialogue should be capitalized.

"I miss Canterlot," said Spike. "what about you, Twilight?"
"I miss Canterlot," said Spike. "What about you, Twilight?"

Sometimes, there is no attribution phrase directly tied to dialogue, but we can infer who is speaking based on context. In these cases, if the dialogue comes before the context sentence(s), it can end in a period, exclamation point, or question mark, but not a comma.

"I haven't seen that book in ages," Twilight scanned the library shelves.
"I haven't seen that book in ages." Twilight scanned the library shelves.

If the context sentence(s) come before the dialogue, it can end in a period, exclamation point, or question mark, but not a comma.

Twilight scanned the library shelves, "I haven't seen that book in ages."
Twilight scanned the library shelves. "I haven't seen that book in ages."

When a new character begins speaking, their dialogue and associated attribution phrases and/or context sentences must go in a new paragraph.

Twilight scanned the library shelves. "I haven't seen that book in ages." Pinkie Pie smiled. "That's okay, I don't need it that badly!"

Twilight scanned the library shelves. "I haven't seen that book in ages."
Pinkie Pie smiled. "That's okay, I don't need it that badly!"

Do not separate dialogue and associated attribution phrases and/or context sentences.

Twilight scanned the library shelves. "I haven't seen that book in ages." Pinkie Pie smiled.
"That's okay, I don't need it that badly!"


Twilight scanned the library shelves. "I haven't seen that book in ages."
Pinkie Pie smiled. "That's okay, I don't need it that badly!"

Thoughts

A special subclass of dialogue is thoughts or inner monologue. This is when the reader can 'hear what a character is thinking. Oftentimes authors will rely on the dialogue attribution phrase to convey that the character is thinking to themselves, not speaking out loud, but this can get confusing, especially when thoughts and spoken dialogue share the same paragraph. Therefore, use italics to indicate thoughts or inner monologue, rather than standard quotations. All other dialogue rules already discussed still apply to thoughts and inner monologue.

"I miss Canterlot," thought Spike.
I miss Canterlot, thought Spike.

Miscellany

Do not include double spaces after sentences, just a single space. For an interesting read about why, click here.

Do not indent the beginning of paragraphs; signify a new paragraph with a "double Enter" - tap Enter twice, such that there is a blank line between each paragraph.

Some word processors autocorrect three periods in a row into the "ellipsis" character, which looks like three periods compressed into a single character. Replace any ellipsis characters with three periods.