SWG Story Rating Guide
Authors on the SWG are presented with the choice to utilize ratings and warnings on their stories. Including ratings and warnings is a long-standing convention in the fanfiction community, and some readers choose what to read in part based on the story's rating or content. Some authors, however, prefer not to rate their stories or use warnings. In an effort to balance the needs of the many users of our site, SWG authors are required to either
- select an appropriate rating and appropriate warnings according to our ratings and warnings policy below or
- select Author Chooses Not to Rate and/or Author Chooses Not to Warn if electing not to include ratings and/or warnings on the story.
Our rating system is as follows:
- General. Material rated "General" is appropriate for all audiences, including children twelve and under. Such material should not include violent or sexual content or any obscene language.
- Teens. Material rated "Teens" is appropriate for older children and may contain some violent or sexual content that is not graphic, pervasive, or particularly sensitive (i.e., torture or rape). Mild and non-pervasive expletive language is acceptable as well.
- Adult. Material rated "Adult" is appropriate only for those who are over the age of consent in their country. Adult-rated material may contain pervasive or graphic violence, expletive language, or sexual content. Any material that focuses on sensitive subject matter such as torture, suicide, incest, or non-consensual sexual situations must be rated Adult.
In addition to ratings, authors can include warnings on their material as to what content a reader can expect to encounter. In other words, why have you rated your story as you have? All stories rated Teens or Adult must include warnings explaining why you have rated the story as you have. If you do not want to select a warning from our list, you must include the label Author Chooses Not to Warn. On the archive, you will select the warnings from a list when you submit your story and can make clarifications in the story notes and summaries, if you feel that you need to. On Yahoo! and LJ, the warnings should be visible before the reader clicks on the story content itself, either outside the LJ-cut (on LJ) or in the title of the post (on LJ and Yahoo!). The list of warnings currently available on the SWG archive is available here.
Inevitably, choosing both ratings and warnings for a story is subjective and, therefore, never an absolute. We ask our authors to be conservative in choosing their warnings. If you're not sure whether a story is better rated as Teens or Adult, choose the higher rating. It is better to lose a few readers unwilling to read an Adult-rated story than to have readers surprised by the content that they encounter. Using warnings and providing clarifications in your story's summary and notes is also encouraged.
In the event that the SWG moderators feel that a story is inappropriately rated or needs additional warnings, then we reserve the right to make these changes. If a story is rated Teens or Adult and does not contain warnings, then we will add the label Author Chooses Not to Warn. We will do our best to contact you and to work with you to find a solution agreeable to both parties, but authors should understand that our priority is ensuring that readers on our sites receive accurate information about the stories posted there.
Tips for Choosing Ratings and Warnings
- 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 3 May 2014.