Ten Speed Press/Celestial Arts General Style Sheet

Ten Speed Press/Celestial Arts General Style Sheet

Handout provided by Lorena Jones, Editorial Director at Ten Speed Press at the May 20, 2003 forum on What Do Hiring Managers Want?

Style Sheet Updated: January 24, 2002

Refer to the following sources for Ten Speed Press and Celestial Arts books:

  • The Chicago Manual of Style (14th ed.)
  • Merriam-Webster's Tenth Collegiate Dictionary

Unless otherwise stated on this style sheet, follow Chicago for matters of style (including capitalization). Follow the first entry of Webster's for correct spelling and word breaks. This style guide is used to clarify areas in which these two works are vague, give more than one option, or where our house style disagrees. The style guide is also used to highlight and clarify commonly misunderstood rules.

Ten Speed Press is an author-centered publishing house. Above all, our goal is to impart the author's voice, personality, character, and vision. If the official style does not feel right for a particular project, decisions can be made on a case-by-case basis as long as the adopted style is used consistently. If an author's stylistic quirks make sense for a book, Ten Speed can accept variance from the official style. The key is to establish a style for that author that will be used consistently throughout the work.

Ten Speed Press is also an editorially driven publishing house. We expect our books to stay in print many years after their first publication. Therefore, the language, word choice, and writing style of a book should reflect this permanence. Our books should not be written in magazine style or in the trendy language of the day.


  • Use the serial comma.
  • If a series is complicated and includes commas, use semicolons between the elements: She's going to visit Dallas, Texas; Malibu, California; and Rye, New Hampshire.
  • Introductory prepositional phrases take a comma: In his case, . . .
  • When words such as however and therefore start a sentence, they are followed by a comma if the sentence is an interruption or if it suggests contrast with or continuation of preceding material.
  • Years within dates and the state name in city-state combinations are set off with commas: He was married on September 25, 1999, at a beautiful park in Berkeley, California, not far from where he met his wife.
  • Use commas to set off names if only one such person exists: My husband, Matthew, . . . (only have one). But, My aunt Carla . . . (if more than one are known, or if the number is unknown).
  • Commas and periods at the end of a quotation are placed inside the quotation marks.
  • A colon after a quotation is placed outside the quotation marks.
  • Question marks go inside quotes or parentheses only if they are part of the quoted material: "Why are we here?" he said. But, Did he really say, "I don't know"?
  • If one parenthetical comment contains a second parenthetical, brackets should be used for the interior instance: (He ran to the east [toward home] with the dog behind him.)
  • Ellipses are formatted thusly: . . . with spaces in between each point.
  • If ellipses follow the end of a sentence, a period is added directly after the last word of the sentence, with no space: last word. . . .
  • If the first word after ellipses points is to be capitalized, four points are needed, with a space after the last one: last word. . . . First word.
  • If ellipses close a quotation, there is no space between the last point and the closing quotation mark.
  • Compound adjectives take hyphens (see exception, next bullet), unless one part of the compound is composed of two words, in which case, the compound adjective takes an en dash: Berkeley-based company, San Francisco-based company.
  • Compound adjectives in which the first word ends in ly do not take hyphens: the fairly strong man.
  • En dashes are used to connect continuing numbers, dates, times, or reference numbers: pages 22-28, April-June 1973, 3-5 P.M., Luke 6:12-7:6. But, in running text: from page 22 to 28 (never: from page 22-28), between April and June (never: between April-June).
  • Omit periods after items in a vertical list unless one or more items are complete sentences. Then, end all the items with periods. The preferred style is to avoid using commas or semicolons after items in a vertical list.


  • Capitalize after a colon only if the material introduced consists of more than one sentence, or if it is a formal statement, a quotation, or a speech in dialogue. Otherwise, the material should begin with a lowercase letter, even if it is a complete, single sentence (CMS 5.103).
  • Use the headline style for headers and titles. The first and last words and all nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, and subordinating conjunctions (if, because, as, that, and so on) are capitalized. Articles (a, an, the), coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, for, nor), and prepositions (regardless of length) are lowercased unless they are the first or last word. The to in infinitives is lowercased.
  • Both words of a compound word in a header or title should be capitalized.
  • In passing reference and in cross-references within a book, the various pieces of the book are set in roman type, without quotation marks, and are lowercased: the preface, the introduction, chapter 6.
  • Popular and legendary names of places are capitalized and are not enclosed in quotation marks: Bay Area, Lake District, West Coast.
  • The four seasons are not capitalized: spring, summer, the winter solstice.
  • Academic degrees and honors are capitalized when following a person's name: Steve Stanhope, Doctor of Economics; Kathryn Dusek, Fellow of the Royal Academy. But, academic degrees referred to in general terms are not capitalized: doctorate, bachelor's degree, master of science.
  • Titles and offices are capitalized when they immediately precede a personal name or are standing in for the name entirely: Princess Grace. Senator Boxer. Yes, Princess, I will call the maid.
  • Titles and offices are not capitalized when they are not used as part of the name. The princess asked me to call the maid. The senator from California. The president of the United States; Jimmy Carter, the president of the United States; the presidency.
  • Mother, father, mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, and so on are only capitalized when used in place of a name: Did you hear my dad sing? Did you hear Dad sing?
  • Capitalize the first word of items in a vertical list.
  • A.M. and P.M. always appear in small caps, with the periods.


  • Punctuation, including quotation marks, parentheses, and brackets, follows the formatting (bold, italics) of preceding words. If the entire material within quotation marks or parentheses is in italics, both opening and closing marks should be as well. However, if the beginning of the enclosed material is in roman, both marks should be roman, even if the last word is in italics.
  • If foreign words are likely to be unfamiliar to the reader, they are italicized throughout (not just on the first occurrence), unless the word is a proper noun or can be found in an English dictionary. When translating a foreign word, the English translation should be enclosed in parentheses directly following the first usage of the word: They call it a boulangerie (bakery).
  • When a word or term is used as a word and not to impart its actual meaning in the sentence, it should be set in italics: The word cuisine was misspelled on the jacket.
  • When a proper name is set in italic type, its possessive ending is set in roman: Lurline's.
  • Individual letters should be italicized unless they are letter grades, then they are set in roman type and capitalized: I wrote an a on the paper. I got an A on the paper.
  • The following titles or names are italicized:

    • Albums: The Beatles' Rubber Soul
    • Movies.
    • Paintings, drawings, statues, and other works of art.
    • Plays.
    • Long poems that have been published on their own and poetry collections: Paradise Lost.
    • Operas and long musical compositions: Don Giovanni.
    • Ships, but not any preceding initials: H.M.S. Bounty.
    • TV series: ABC's NYPD Blue.

  • The following titles or names are set in roman type with quotation marks:

    • Short poems: "Ode on a Grecian Urn."
    • Songs: "Thriller."
    • TV and radio shows shown once: the ABC special "Finding a Publisher."


  • Use a before consonants and words that begin with a yew sound. Use an before nouns that begin with a vowel or words and abbreviations that are pronounced as if they begin with vowels: a huge dog, a UNICEF volunteer, an M.A. candidate, an hour. But, a historic day.
  • Who versus whom? Simple difference: whom is an objective pronoun (functions as the object of the sentence or of a preposition); who is a subjective pronoun (functions as the subject of the sentence). Whom should I send this to? Who will buy this book? Therefore, "Whom may I say is calling?" is incorrect, though you may say, "To whom am I speaking?"
  • That versus which? That is used when the clause is necessary to the meaning of the sentence (a restrictive clause). Which is used when the clause could be omitted without changing the meaning of the sentence (a nonrestrictive clause). Commas are not used to set off that statements; commas are used to set off which statements: The book that I brought today is on my desk. That book, which I've always loved, seems to have disappeared.
  • Although versus though? This one's a fine line. Both can be used as conjunctions, meaning "in spite of the fact that," "even though," "while," and "even if." Though can also serve as an adverb (although cannot) meaning "however" or "nevertheless."
  • In general, Ten Speed's preference is to use B.C.E. (before the common era) and C.E. (common era) rather than B.C. and A.D. These terms are always in small caps, with the periods. However, the latter terms may be used per the author's preference or according to the content of the book.
  • Do not use et al., etc., i.e., or e.g. in running text. In many cases, and so on can be substituted. (For e.g., i.e., etc., and so on, be sure to include the periods and a following comma.)
  • Toward, afterward, backward-these don't have an ending s.
  • Use resume or résumé, per the author's preference.
  • A piece of text in the front of a book is a foreword, not a forward.
  • The following word choices are preferred:

    • Acknowledgments (not Acknowledgements)
    • African American (not African-American; same rule applies to other ethnic groups)
    • coauthor (not co-author)
    • Contents (not Table of Contents)
    • farmers' market (not farmer's market or farmers market)
    • most important (not most importantly)
    • September 11 (not 9/11 or 9-11)
    • traveler (not traveller)
    • vendor (not vender)


  • Possessives with proper nouns ending in "s" are formed by the addition of an apostrophe and an "s": Lorena Jones's, Dick Bolles's. But, exceptions: Jesus' and Moses', and names with an ending pronounced eez: Ramses', Xerses'.
  • Like common nouns, closely linked proper names may be treated as a unit in forming possessives: Oakland and Berkeley's transportation system. But, Berkeley's and San Diego's transportation systems.
  • As much as possible without causing confusion, plurals are formed by simply adding an s: the ABCs, he got straight Cs, the 1970s, CODs, YMCAs. But, in the cases of abbreviations with more than one period or formations that might be confusing, an apostrophe and an s are used: Ph.D.'s, p's and q's, he got straight A's (without the apostrophe, could be read as as).
  • Collective nouns such as audience, committee, company, couple, team, and variety are singular: The committee is made up of parents and teachers. In these causes, singular pronouns are used: it, not they.
  • Company names are singular and should have a singular verb: Ten Speed Press is a leading Bay Area book publisher. It has been in business for thirty years.
  • Don't use very with absolute terms such as unique, complete, rare, and perfect.
  • If an abbreviation has become a recognized word and is pronounced as a word, the periods are omitted, except when there may be confusion: NATO, UNICEF, W.H.O.
  • When letters within a single word are used in abbreviation, they do not have periods: TV, IV, DDT, TB.
  • Washington, D.C., should include the periods.
  • Personal initials should have spaces between the letters: H. T. White.
  • "Turn of the century" is no longer a clear term or modifier. It must be accompanied by the century number: "Turn of the nineteenth century" would mean the beginning of the 1900s.


  • Spell out whole numbers from one to ninety-nine and these numbers followed by hundred, thousand, hundred thousand, million, billion, and so on: five; fifty-three; fifty-three thousand; twenty million; 132; 100,000.
  • Numbers with similar functions in a sentence should be treated consistently, regardless of whether or not they are above or below 100: On my street, there are 6 apartment buildings, 23 businesses, and 130 single-family homes.
  • Always spell out a number at the beginning of a sentence. If it seems clumsy, reword the sentence.
  • Dates in running text are written as cardinal numbers: 8 April or April 8, not 8th April or April 8th.
  • Fractions in running text should be written out: three-quarters of the boys have crew cuts.
  • Numerals are always used with percentages, but the percent sign should not be used in running text: 50 percent.
  • Ages are hyphenated only if used as adjectives: four-year-old boy, a four-year-old (the noun is assumed). But, He's four years old, he's thirty-six years old.
  • Refer to decades as: the 1950s (note, no apostrophe) or the fifties.


  • Word list:
    1. email
    2. CCing, CC'd
    3. chat room
    4. inbox
    5. Internet, the Net
    6. offline
    7. online
    8. URL
    9. web (adjective)
    10. web designer
    11. webmaster
    12. website
    13. World Wide Web, the Web (proper noun)
  • Don't include http//: before web addresses unless the address does not begin with www.
  • Web addresses should not be hyperlinked.
  • Web addresses should be set in roman unless otherwise specified by the editor.
  • In general, names of web companies should follow the spelling the company itself uses: Yahoo!, iWon.
  • If the name of a web company with an initial lowercase letter starts a sentence, that letter should be capitalized (or the sentence should be recasted so the company name is not the first word).
  • Web addresses should not be broken at the end of a line. If one is, don't hyphenate it. If a URL must break, break it after a slash if possible.
  • If an email address must break, break it after the @ sign but before the dot. However, the best option would be to recast the sentence so the break isn't necessary:

  •     you@
  • While domain names (the first part of the address: www.tenspeed.com) are not case-sensitive, URL pathnames (everything that follows the first forward slash) are case-sensitive. So pay close attention to correct capitalization in URL pathnames: for example, www.degree.net/Accreditation_Guide (because Accreditation_guide won't work).
  • Style computer keys roman with initial caps: Enter, Shift, and so on.


  • Omit periods and colons after display lines, running heads, or headings of any kind.
  • Front matter folios are lowercase roman numerals. Arabic numerals begin on the first page of the introduction or of chapter 1 (this to be determined by the editor, based on the centrality of the introduction content).
  • Spaces on either side of em dashes should be closed up.
  • All quotation marks and apostrophes should be curly (unless the typeface style isn't curly).
  • Pages with four lines of text or fewer should be marked as short and flagged for redesign.
  • Rivers (white spaces running between words down the page through several lines of type) caused by too-tight leading and/or widely spaced words should be flagged for redesign.
  • Loose lines should be flagged for redesign.
  • If a subhead appears toward the bottom of a page, it must be followed by at least two lines of text.
  • Word blocks are when two or more phrases stack up.
  • Hyphen blocks are when three or more hyphens stack up at the end of a line.
  • Widows of any length at the top of pages are not acceptable.
  • Orphans consisting of four characters or fewer, including punctuation (or any word broken with a hyphen), are not acceptable.
  • First lines of paragraphs orphaned at the bottom of pages are not acceptable.
  • Bad breaks include the following:
  • Breaks in hyphenated compounds at a place other than the hyphen: big-mon/eyed.
  • Breaks in words followed or preceded by em dashes.
  • Breaks in words in which the last syllable contains only a silent e.
  • Breaks in words in which only two letters fall on the second line: laugh/ed, sign/ed.
  • Breaks in words in which the last syllable is three letters, one of them being a silent e: peo/ple.
  • Breaks in words that may be misleading in meaning if divided: wo/men, of/ten.
  • One-letter breaks: e/vade.
  • Breaks before the "n't" in a contractions: should/n't.
  • Breaks in personal names: Courteney C. Ar/quette, T./S. Eliot (but Courteney C./Arquette and T. S./Eliot okay).
  • Breaks before numeral suffixes-Henry/VIII-or breaks in figures at a point other than a comma-1,422,0/00.
  • Breaks that separate the month and day if the year will appear on the next line. June/22, 1973 should be rebroken to June 22,/1973.
  • Breaks at the end of recto pages if the break could disrupt reading flow.
  • Breaks in a string of three or four ellipses points.
Copyright 2004, Lorena Jones, Ten Speed Press.



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