The L.A. Times has the 'Star Wars' style guide you've been wishing for
Boba Fett has two Ts. Alderaan has three As. And it's C-3PO "(the letter O, not zero)." Thanks to the Los Angeles Times' Blake Hennon, all your "Star Wars" style questions can now be answered in one place.
On Tuesday, the Times published "Is it Wookie or Wookiee? The Times' definitive 'Star Wars' style guide." Hennon, assistant copy chief, begins with a little about how he got the task of compiling this guide, which is more than 8,000 words long.
With the venerable space opera about to start bringing new stories to the big screen at the planned rate of one per year -- and the upcoming fleet’s worth of Times stories that will cover all the developments and details of the on- and off-screen “Star Wars” saga -- The Times’ copy desk decided it would help in editing to have an organized guide to facts, names and terms that might appear in our coverage.
I volunteered to put it together, and relied on the films; Lucasfilm’s publicly available databank; the Academy Awards’ database; images of officially licensed products; and Times precedence, stories, style rules and tendencies (which sometimes override other groups’ preferences). To answer the questions above: “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope”; Wookiee.
Hennon said it's hard to estimate how long it took to compile the guide. He worked on it here and there, then turned it over to a few people at the Times before distributing it internally.
"Those early readers made some good catches," he said in an e-mail, "e.g. that the title 'Star Wars: Rogue One' had been switched to 'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,' and we clarified things such as whether it’s 'crossguard' or 'cross-guard.' (It’s the latter – thanks, Oxford English Dictionary entry for 'quillon'!)"
This is the first style guide that he's created, but "because I’ve been a copy editor on The Times’ Hero Complex website since its inception, I’ve helped navigate these sorts of style issues -- I wrote our internal style entry on how to handle comic book titles. But nothing approaching 8,000 words!"
The style guide isn't just for terms and names from the movie. It also includes the full titles of the films, TV shows, specials, awards and more. For instance, did you know that in 1978, there was a "The Star Wars Holiday Special" on CBS?
It featured film cast members Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, Kenny Baker and Anthony Daniels; TV stars including Bea Arthur, Art Carney, Diahann Carroll and Harvey Korman; and the band Jefferson Starship.
The guide is a great refresher ahead of the next movie release, and for Hennon, it brought up a few details about the franchise that he didn't know.
"One thing that comes to mind is that I didn’t know the names of several of the actors who appeared fleetingly in the original trilogy as important characters – such as Clive Revill and Sebastian Shaw," Hennon said. "I’m sure I didn’t know the name of Gen. Grievous’ ship or recall the name Watto."
You can also find "Star Wars" style on Twitter with Star Wars Stylebook, "Because every Star Wars fan should know that 'Jedi' is a singular plural."
Death Star. Two words, both capitalized, no italics. Not a moon. pic.twitter.com/vaVNC1KFDj
— Star Wars Stylebook (@SWStylebook) November 16, 2015
Hennon writes that he tried to keep the Times' style guide interesting by adding a bit of fun. He's also open to suggestions from readers.
I hope you enjoy it, but don’t be shy about letting me know what I should be thrown into the Pit of Carkoon for leaving out or getting wrong.
May the Force (lowercase t, capital F) be with you.
And he has gotten some reader corrections already, by the way.
"A few people politely pointed out mistakes – I’d left a y out of Kashyyyk and had Wedge belonging to Rogue Squadron instead of Red Squadron in 'A New Hope'; in both cases apparently I trusted my memory too much. Those changes have been made and noted. I’m glad to be held accountable and that readers can help us improve this style guide as we continue to develop it."
One thing he's now wondering -- "What’s an appropriate amount of time to wait after 'The Force Awakens' opens before updating the relevant entries with spoilers?"
Previously: NYT corrects: Wookiee has two ‘e’s
Correction: An earlier version of this post noted that Alderaan has two As.
Clearly it has three, two of them are together. Corrected it has been. This post has also been updated with quotes from Blake Hennon.