Style & Critique Guide
At Reading Writers we urge all our members to share their work. We also believe that constructive feedback is essential to the process. Here are our guides to best practice in how we like to see work set out, and how to most effectively critique it.
Style Guide – Click here to download (in MS Word)
Or read it here:
Reading Writers’ Style Guide
Information for the Reader
(i) Work should contain a title (even a work in progress title if required) and the author’s name
(ii) Where possible work should include a genre description
(iii) Work should include a word count (of the section provided and of the whole piece where appropriate)
General Formatting of the Page
(i) Include a header with abbreviated author and title information
(ii) Include a footer with page number
(iii) Include good sized margins
General Formatting of Text
(i) Font: Arial, Times New Roman, or similarly readable font
(ii) Font size: 12
(iii) Line spacing: double
(iv) Paragraph formatting:
- new paragraphs should always start on a new line
- do not leave a blank line between paragraphs
- first paragraph of a new chapter (or a distinct new section within a chapter) do not indent
- all following paragraphs should be indented (use the TAB button on your keyboard)
(v) Text should be left-aligned (not justified)
Formatting of Dialogue
(i) Speech marks should be used to identify the spoken word – either “…” or ‘…’ is acceptable providing that they are used consistently throughout
(ii) The words inside speech marks always end with a mark of punctuation (full stop, comma, question mark or exclamation mark)
(iii) If the sentence is continued after the speech marks (with a speech tag such as he said) then you don’t end the speech with a full stop, and the first word outside the speech marks must begin with a small letter
(iv) If the sentence begins with He said, a comma must follow this before you open the speech marks
(v) When a new speaker begins, you must begin a new (indented) paragraph
Use the Direct Address Comma
When speech directly addresses another person, that person’s name should always be preceded by a comma
“Will you pass me that pen please, John?”
Use Single Spaces between Sentences
Single space is appropriate between the full stop of the previous sentence and the first (upper case) character of the next
If, in the font you are using, italics are easy to see, then use italics where necessary. If italicisation is not clear in your font (such as in Courier), then underline the words instead of italicising them.
(i) Spell out single-digit whole numbers. Use numerals for numbers greater than nine. (If a sentence includes numbers below and greater than nine, choose whichever you feel suits the writing, and remain consistent for both numbers.)
(ii) When writing decades, spell them out and lowercase them – eighties. If you want to use the incomplete numerals, use an apostrophe before, but not between the numerals and the s – ’80s.
(iii) When writing time, if you are including o’clock always spell out the time – five o’clock. Use numerals for specific time or when using A.M. and P.M. – 5:15 A.M.
If you wish to include a section break in your text do so with an extra blank line between paragraphs, and do not indent the following paragraph. If this does not appear clear with the font type and size you have selected, use a number symbol # in the blank line and centre.
Recommended On-line Style Guide
NB: This contains a useful and extensive guide to style for magazine production and general written communication; please tailor it with the specific advice in this document for fiction.
by Josh Williams for Reading Writers
Or read it here:
Reading Writers’ Group
Critique Guide Sheet for Fiction
This is a list of suggested headings to organise your critique, and questions to ask. It is intended as a guide to help the critique process. It need not be followed in cases where it does not apply.
Is the plot believable? Does it fit the characters? Is it to fast to too slow? Too simple or too complex?
Too many characters or too few? Are they real people, or flat cutouts? Do they have their own histories and agendas? Do they act out of character ? Is it easy to confuse one with another?
Too many locations or too few? Can you see the locations in the mind’s eye? Does the reader see things that the characters can’t? Is this a bad thing? Too much description or too little?
Too much or too little? Do the characters have different voices? Are there enough contractions? Do they say things the other person already knows?
Do we stay in one viewpoint, or change? Does the chosen viewpoint work?
Does the story make you feel happy or sad or angry? Do you want to read on or is it heavy going? Does it seem well-written or are there bad sections?
Is the ending too sudden or too slow? Does it follow logically from the story? Does it leave the reader satisfied? Would you want to read a sequel?
Are there errors in grammar, spelling, layout or punctuation? Are there factual mistakes? Does this fall into any traps, such as cliché, melodrama or preaching? Does it overuse the pluperfect tense?
What advice would you give to the writer? How much editing does this need? What sort of market is it suitable for?
by Robert Billing for Reading Writers