Style Guide

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Style

by

Tony R. Rose (as amended by the Grand Comics Database Board)

The following document is intended to provide clear, unambiguous direction to Grand Comics Database catalogers and editors on matters of punctuation and usage. By adhering to the style set forth in this guide, the GCD will present its data in a more consistent and professional manner, minimize mis-readings, and enhance the value of the data by making the GCD itself more easily used. Matters of grammar, usage, punctuation, etc. are intended to follow the current edition of The Chicago Manual of Style. An on-line version of the manual can be found at https://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/home.html. Also recommended is access to a good dictionary; Webster's Third, American Heritage, or Oxford American are the best for English. https://www.onelook.com/ has a good set of on-line English dictionaries.

To follow our style guide means:

  • If an indexer does the essentials, but not all the desirables, and communicates effectively, an editor accepts the contribution.
  • If an indexer changes a contribution to better align with the desirables in the style guide, the change is accepted.
  • If an indexer moves away from the style guide, the change is not accepted.

The exceptions to the Chicago Manual that are peculiar to the GCD are described below.

The instructions for the actual content of the various GCD fields can be found at [Formatting Documentation].

The international character of the GCD means that numerous languages are used throughout the database. The proper rules of grammar, spelling, and punctuation for the language of the publication being indexed should be followed. The general principles of this guide should be applicable in any language. Those aspects of this guide that are peculiar to English may have analogs in other languages.

An aspect of the GCD's data that makes some style generalization difficult is that we fail to distinguish publication formats: books, periodicals, pamphlets are all indexed using the same fields. Further, long-standing national traditions among comics readers and collectors create a pre-conception of the essential nature of a publication. Americans are often uncomfortable with calling the traditional 36-page comics periodical a “magazine,” just as many Europeans can't call a 21cm x 30cm, 48-page book of comics anything but an “album.” This results in some accommodations that will be noted throughout.

General rules

Ideally, the titles of novels, book-length non-fiction, magazines, journals, paintings, radio series, television series, and motion pictures would be italicized, but the current GCD set-up does not allow that. As a stop-gap, when these titles are used, they should be preceded and followed with a quotation mark with no spaces separating the marks from the first and last words of the title. This does not apply to the titles of series cataloged in the GCD but only to those that are referred to in notes.

As a practice, avoid abbreviations. Always consider whether it is better to simply write a word or phrase out in full, thus avoiding potential confusion for those not familiar with its abbreviation.

Remember that the GCD does not have the same space constraints as paper.

When using an abbreviation:

  • use periods with abbreviations that end in a lowercase letter: a.m., Dr., a.k.a., unless it reads as a single word: laser, scuba
  • use no periods with abbreviations that appear in full capitals, even if lowercase letters appear: NASA, AD, PhD

There are a number of expressions that are almost always abbreviated and can be used in the GCD without writing them in full on first use. We will use the list of allowed exceptions from Wikipedia as an addendum to the style guide:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style/Abbreviations

The policy list can decide to create and maintain our own list of such abbreviations.

Currencies are only to be referred to by their currency code.

There are a variety of dashes in typography but in the GCD, we only use one: the hyphen. Use the hyphen when indicating continuing numbers, with no space before or after the hyphen: “1969-1973" or “#58-69", or in those instances where the usual spelling of a word requires it, as in “Spider-Man" or “non-Euclidian." Also use the hyphen for other uses of the dash, with a space before and after it. When transcribing a title that uses two or more dashes, enter them as printed.

Reprint Notes shall be formatted using hyphens in the style “YYYY-MM-DD” for a single date, or “YYYY-MM-DD - YYYY-MM-DD” for a range of dates, or “YYYY-MM-DD; YYYY-MM-DD - YYYY-MM-DD; YYYY-MM-DD” for a group of separate dates.

For database entries that are not sentences, names, or titles, only proper nouns shall be capitalized.

Series' titles

When referring to a series, always use the full GCD designation of official series title, followed by the publisher name and the year the series began, in parentheses: The Amazing Spider-Man (Marvel, 1963 series) or Kalle Anka & C:o (Egmont, 1997 series). Note that the GCD classifies many books and albums as single-issue series: From Hell (Top Shelf, 1999 series) or Arzach (Les Humanoïdes Associés, 1976 series). When referring to a particular issue in a series, the issue number comes after the parenthetical information: Captain America (Marvel, 1968 series) #100. Use [nn] as the issue number for those books that are classified as single-issue series: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (Houghton Mifflin, 2006) [nn]. Place the issue title, if any, after the issue number, separating the two with a space, hyphen, space. Y: The Last Man (DC, 2003 series) #1 - Unmanned.

Story titles

In the story title field, do not use quotation marks unless they occur within the title. However, when referring to a comics story by title (as in a note), set it off with quotation marks and always include the full issue reference. "Curse of the Un-dead Man" in The Savage Sword of Conan (Marvel, 1974 series) #1.

The ellipsis (three periods to indicate a hesitation in speech or an omission in quotations) often appears in comic story titles. When transcribing it for the database, enter it with no preceding space, no space between the periods, and one space following the ellipsis. In some of the lettering used for titles, the ellipsis may be represented by two or four periods; when transcribing, use the three period ellipsis for those titles.

When quoting the first line of a story as the title, do not use title case; use sentence case. Keep in mind that the dashes used in comics dialog is almost always used in the place of a comma, so the word following the dashes is not capitalized in sentence case.

Use a full sentence in the “first line” field. If you feel that a second sentence is needed to easily identify the story, enter it.

Credits and Creators

Do not use a comma beforehand, but use a period behind the identifiers Jr. or Sr.

Note the names of the GCD credits fields and use those in your notes: script not writer; inks not inker.

The word “typeset,” used in the letters field to indicate type instead of lettering, is not capitalized.

For internet citations in the various source description fields in a creator record you should identify the website, the title of the page, give the URL, and the date that the resource was accessed, with each element separated by a period. Example: “Lambiek Comiclopedia. "Antonio Cardoso." https://www.lambiek.net/artists/c/cardoso_antonio.htm. Retrieved November 29, 2018.” For other citation types follow the Chicago Manual.

In notes, the acceptable phrases for the source of credits are: “credits from” or “identification by.” Do not mix and match: “credits by” or “identification from” are incorrect.

Keep in mind that Jerry Bails’s Who’s Who is descriptive, not proscriptive. The Who’s Who will not tell you who did not work on a particular feature.

Characters

Do not use a comma beforehand, but use a period behind the identifiers Jr. or Sr.

If you are going to use personal titles, such as military ranks, in the character field, spell them out. Senator Mike Ross or General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross. These titles are only capitalized when used with names. Some titles are not spelled out in English: Mr., Mrs., Dr., Ms., unless they begin a sentence. “Ms.” has no spelled out form.

If you feel it is important or necessary to help identify a character, indicate the story roles played by characters in the character field using a note in parentheses, as Mrs. Jones (Mr. Jones' wife) or Mr. Smith (owner of drug store). Always consider carefully how important it actually is.

When using actual measurements in the size format field use the abbreviation in. (only for American comics) and the abbreviation cm (with no periods) for all others. The numbers should be given as width by height: 16 in. x 22 in. or 23cm x 32cm. Note the spaces in the inches measurement.

Synopses

A synopsis should be succinct. It should not recreate the story, but only briefly describe the main plot. It should be written in full, grammatical sentences. An important rule for any kind of writing applies: Say what you mean and mean what you say.

Synopses are written in third person, present tense, for example: “The Human Torch visits the Inhuman Great Refuge while the rest of the Fantastic Four battle Kurrgo.”

Synopses are not chatty fan conversations. They are descriptions of a plot. Names such as “Spidey” or “Wolvie” or “Supes” are inappropriate and should not be used.

Do not use exclamation points in synopses.

Do not use the ellipsis in a synopsis.

Keywords

For some doing the research for keywording a story is tremendously fascinating. For others, it is much less so. Do as much as is appropriate, or as little as you like, but remember that keywords offer a rich opportunity to enhance the GCD’s value to researchers on any imaginable topic. For searches of keywords to be useful, we must strive for meticulous consistency. In time, a massive clean-up of this field will be necessary to achieve the needed consistency but until then, we should work to minimize the diversity of terms.

Much of the usage of keywords should follow the ideal of a Library of Congress (LOC) subject tracing without the full, hierarchical tracing. For instance, an LOC tracing might read as “English language — dialects — England — London” which would be reduced, GCD-wise, to “English dialects.”

Following the LOC model, enter non-proper noun keywords in the plural, e.g. automobiles; beaches. But, sciences, philosophies, activities etc. should be in the singular, e.g. communism; physics; photography; surfing.

Keywords coming from comics collecting jargon are welcomed. It should be noted that some, such as “infinity cover,” should be used in the singular. A perhaps difficult keyword to come to grips with would be “good girl art,” with some disagreement among collectors as to what constitutes it. In the opinion of this author, the works of Matt Baker are the epitome of good girl art and also ground it in a time period. While Russ Manning (to name just one artist) was capable of drawing incredibly beautiful women, his work is not “good girl art” because it generally falls out of the 1940s/1950s time period.

Some specifics on keywords:

World War I and World War II should be used in place of WWI, WWII, or First World War, etc.

The American Civil War should be listed as just that: American Civil War, not War of Northern Aggression or War Between the States. Other national civil wars should use national adjectives as well: English Civil War; Spanish Civil War.

Our current field will not accept commas, so break place-names into their components by semi-colons: Paris; France or Fort Smith; Arkansas.

Keyword instances where a character is diegetically (i.e. in the story) naked but the nudity is concealed by shadows or foreground objects, with the somewhat self-contradicting neologism “concealed nudity.”

Be mindful of the time period of a story and keyword organizations such as armies or navies by their contemporary names, e.g. Kaiserliche Marine vs Kriegsmarine vs Bundesmarine.

Statues of characters (frequently appearing in Mort Weisinger-edited Superman Family stories) should be keyworded as “statue of [...],” e.g. statue of Superman; statue of Nexus.

When one considers super-hero comics, keywords such as “robberies” are not of much help to anyone doing a search. It may be that “mugging” or “bank heists” might be of more aid.

(end of Guide)


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