Style Guide

If you have any questions about this, please email


Introduction / Why?

Every writer, every correspondent, every person has their own style when setting out their writing and punctuating their work.

This is especially so when work is submitted from across the globe. Some of these are native speakers of English. Some speak and write English as their second or third or fourth language … and brava (or bravo) to them too.

We here at Truth Serum Press usually keep the punctuation used by the original author. If we believe the meaning is enhanced by changes to the punctuation, this is suggested and discussed with the author during the editing process.

And as for spelling, please use the English spelling that is native to you, whether you are British or American or Canadian or Australian or Samoan or whatever …

If English is not your first language, please make sure your spelling is consistent. For example, many younger Indian writers use American spelling, while many older Indian writers use British spelling. Either is fine, as long as the spelling is consistent within the story, essay or poem.

What can cause problems is if the terms used are British but the spelling is American, or vice versa. This can make for odd reading.

We do, however, indent new paragraphs, as a matter of course … unless there is a reason not to. (For poetry, for example.)


Style Guide for print submissions

We would like you to submit for print in the following way:

  • 12 point for the text. The fonts we have used vary, but we have used Bembo, Athelas, Fournier MT, Garamond, Filosofia, Book Antiqua and Avenir in our print books. For submissions, make sure the font is clear and clean and easy to read: Cambria, Calibri, Arial are fine. Many use Times New Roman by default. What we can guarantee is, we will never be using Times New Roman in print. Ever. But use it when submitting if that is easy for you.
  • any font size for the title and your name is fine
  • at least 1.5 space between each line
  • only one space between each sentence. Two spaces, which are preferred by many writers, can make spacing across each paragraph and the whole piece very difficult and cause large gaps when the text is justified. We hate this. Please use only one space.


How your work will appear on the printed page

In the interests of consistency, the following changes will be made if your work does not meet these standards.

italics – Italics will be used for film and TV show titles and book and album titles, but not for the names of (for example) airports or companies or brand names unless they are italicised for emphasis. Thus, the book Go Down, Moses will appear Go Down, Moses and not ‘Go Down, Moses’.

capitals – Many writers have issues with names for parents and other family members. If you are referring to them by name – Dad, Mom, Father, Mum, Grandma, Papa, Aunt Mary – then they should have a capital for their title. If not – her dad, my grandma, his uncle, the mom – then they should not have a capital.

only one space between each sentence – Two spaces, which are preferred by many writers, can make spacing across each paragraph and the whole piece very difficult and cause large gaps when the text is justified. This doesn’t happen with only one space between sentences. If the spacing is bad we will send it back. And three spaces, which some writers use ad hoc because they are a bit sloppy, just makes the writer look … well, sloppy.

brackets and full stops / periods – If the whole sentence is bracketed, then the full stop or period should appear inside the brackets. (I told her she shouldn’t do it.) If the bracketed words are part of a sentence, then the full stop or period should appear outside the brackets. I told her she was gorgeous (even though she didn’t want me to).

ellipses and dashes – As sentences tail off or peter out, or when they are interrupted (and many writers use these with dialogue) we prefer it if you add a space between the dash or the ellipsis and the word either side of it, at both ends. I couldn’t do it … I couldn’t breathe … I couldn’t talk … or I couldn’t do it – I couldn’t breathe – I couldn’t talk –

While wed rather you didnt do this, we can cope with this alternative: I couldn’t do it… I couldn’t breathe… I couldn’t talk… or I couldn’t do it- I couldn’t breathe- I couldn’t talk-

But the following is not acceptable and will be changed: I couldn’t do it…I couldn’t breathe…I couldn’t talk… or I couldn’t do it–I couldn’t breathe–I couldn’t talk–

Ellipses and dashes mean different things, but should be treated in the same way.

decades – There are two ways to write decades as numerals: 1920s and ’20s. There is no need to put an apostrophe between “0” and “s” in the longer form, as it’s a simple plural … and the apostrophe is placed at the beginning of the short form to denote a contraction or missing letters. The only time you should use an apostrophe for the longer form is after the “s”, to denote possession i.e. “The 1920s’ most popular car was the Chevrolet,” which could also be written, “The most popular car of the 1920s was the Chevrolet.” This sentence – “1920’s most popular car was the Chevrolet” – refers to the single year 1920, and not the decade of the 1920s.

two dashes or one? – One, longer dash is better, and not two shorter dashes. We will change the two shorter dashes to one longer dash – unless its code for something!

Oxford commas – These are used when listing things. This is entirely a personal preference, though some writers use them sometimes, and other times choose not to. Oxford commas are used after the second to last object or action in the list, and before and. Example with an Oxford comma (Oxford comma in red): He bought oranges, apples, bananas, and lemons. Example without an Oxford comma: He bought oranges, apples, bananas and lemons. The choice is yours, but be mindful of any inconsistencies in using them, if they are (or are not) important.

quotation marks for speech – “ ” for all speech should be used: “I could have sworn we’d met before,” and not, ‘I could have sworn we’d met before.’ If a character is quoting speech within speech, then this is the form we will use: “She didn’t say that,” Janet replied. “She said, ‘I’ll do it tomorrow if I have time.’”

quotation marks for names – If you are using them, use single quotation marks for names, and NOT double! Ugh! we hate the double when the single should be used. So it should be: The sign said Open. NOT: The sign said Open.’ NOT: The sign said “OPEN”. And definitely NOT: The sign said “OPEN.”

Place the period or full stop outside the single quote marks for names, NOT inside.

Otherwise, italics is fine for the names of things. (See the heading italics above.)

Listed below is a great list of names to put in italics or quote marks. (Please note the original uses double quote marks “ ” and ugh! we hate that, so instead, we have used single quote marks ’.) The original comes from MLA online.

What do you put in ‘quotation marks’?

  • Article titles from magazines, newspapers, journals – ‘Censorship is Harmful to Society’
  • Essays – ‘Feminism in British Literature’
  • Short Stories – ‘Gramma’ (short story by Stephen King)
  • Poems – ‘The Tyger’ (poem by William Blake)
  • Book Chapters – ‘The American Economy Before the Civil War’
  • Specific pages within a website – ‘Crohn’s Disease’ (page found within the CDC’s website)
  • Specific episodes of TV shows – ‘The Trouble with Tribbles’ (an episode of Star Trek)
  • Specific episodes of radio programs – ‘A Conversation with Margaret Atwood’ (a specific episode of the radio show named All Things Considered)
  • Songs – ‘Thriller’ (song by Michael Jackson)

What do you italicize?

  • BooksTwilight by Stephanie Meyer
  • NewspapersUSA Today
  • MagazinesSports Illustrated
  • JournalsJournal of Fiction Studies
  • Websites –
  • Online databasesOpposing Viewpoints Resource Center
  • PlaysRomeo and Juliet by Williams Shakespeare
  • Pamphlets – What You Should Know About the H1N1 Virus (pamphlet from the Center for Disease Control)
  • Films / movie titlesThe Breakfast Club
  • Television showsGlee
  • Radio programs/broadcastsAll Things Considered
  • Album titlesNo Line on the Horizon (album by U2)
  • Operas – La boheme (opera by Giacomo Puccini)
  • Dance PerformancesThe Nutcracker
  • Long Musical Compositions – Symphonie Fantastique (composition by Berlioz)
  • Paintings – I and My Village (painting by Marc Chagall)
  • SculpturesThe Minute Man (sculpture by Daniel Chester French)
  • Ships – USS Arizona
  • Aircraft – Airforce One
  • Spacecraft – Challenger

quotation marks for nervousness! – This refers to times when a writer uses “ ” because the idea they are talking about is not quite accepted, for a number of reasons. Often, the adjective “so-called” could be used instead.

  • We looked at all the “evidence” we had collected, spread across the carpet.
  • We have a “bumper” issue coming up this month.
  • Were having a “naughty” night in with a “sing-a-long” and then “wicked” drinks followed by a “glamazon” supper.

Ugh ugh ugh!!! Have the courage of your convictions and ditch the “ ”.

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