How do I choose the correct ratings and warnings for my stories?
Ratings and warnings are often a difficult issue, and each author (and reader) will necessarily interpret them in a slightly different manner. As such, choosing the correct ratings and warnings for your stories will largely be a matter of your own individual judgment. The function of warnings is to clarify ratings: If you've rated a story Adult, for example, there must be some content within your story that has caused you to deem it unacceptable for underage audiences. The warnings that you select serve as a brief explanation to your readers about why you have rated the story as you have and allow them to make an informed decision about whether they're comfortable reading the story.
Please see our ratings guide for more information on how we classify stories using ratings and warnings.
After sharing hundreds of stories between them and helping out SWG members, our moderators have developed a good idea of how to choose ratings and warnings for stories. Here are some tips for how to choose appropriate ratings and warnings for your story:
- A lot of authors experience anxiety on choosing ratings and warnings for their stories, worried that their interpretation of a rating or warning will not match the community standard. However, remember that ratings and warnings both tell the reader what you as an author think that they need to know about your story. It is impossible for us to quantify precisely what deserves specific ratings and warnings, and it would be unnecessarily difficult for our authors if we tried. When in doubt, check out how other authors are rating stories on the site. Here you will find all of the stories on the archive sorted by rating.
- What is the difference between Violence, Violence--Mild, and Violence--Graphic? We have provided graduations for certain warnings to help authors label their stories appropriately. With just "Violence" as a warning, a story involving gory battle violence would bear the same warning as a story where two characters have a brief fistfight. In general, choose the "Graphic" designation when this aspect is central to your story or particularly intense. Choose "Mild" when it is just a minor component but you feel it deserves mentioning.
- Use common sense and, when in doubt, be conservative. Most authors possess an intuitive sense of what rating their story needs. Imagine whether most of the parents you know would want to read your story to a young child. To a teenager? Is there something in the story that you know some people will want to avoid? Then provide a warning for it.
- Don't forget that the story summary and story notes can be your friend. There might be a warning that you need that isn't on the list. Or you might want to clarify further why you have rated the story the way that you have. Feel free to use the summary and story notes for this purpose.
- And don't be afraid to ask for help! Questions about ratings and warnings on stories are some of the most common that our moderators receive. We are happy to take a look at your story and help you to choose a rating and appropriate warnings for it. Simply email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask!
Last updated 28 May 2008.