AJC House Style Guide

For Fiction and Narrative Non-Fiction Works

Style Manual: online Australian Style Manual (ASM) –  deferring to online Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) for fiction and narrative non-fiction elements or where ASM is silent.

Dictionary: online Macquarie Dictionary – defaulting to online Premium Oxford Dictionary where Macquarie is silent.



  • No full stops unless part of an official organisation’s name – USA, UK, but U.S. Consulate
  • Full stops with abbreviations not ending in last letter – Vic., but Cwlth


Maximal capitalisation (max caps) definition: capitalise all words except articles, prepositions and conjunctions.

Minimal capitalisation (min caps)  definition: capitalise only the first word and any proper nouns and names.

Titles of works

(Defer to CMOS)

  • Books, poems, articles, works of art: max caps, italics – Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • Periodicals/newspapers: max caps, italics – Woman’s Weekly
  • Song titles: max caps, roman, double quotes – “The Road to Gundagai”
  • Film, videos, radio, TV programs: max caps, italics – The Brady Bunch Revisited
  • Episodes: max caps, roman, double quotes – “The Heroin Wars”
  • Band names: max caps, roman (unless trademarked otherwise)

Personal titles and names

  • Common civic titles: Miss, Mrs, Mr JW Smith (no full stops or spaces between or after initials)
  • Roles/titles: capitalise when used as full title or when addressing – Captain Smith, King Richard, Sergeant Baker, Yes, Captain
  • Ranks/roles: lowercase when used as a role/position – the captain, the king, the guard, the teacher
  • Honorifics – Sir James, Lady Swanson but sir, ma’am, my lord, my lady

Captions and labels

Roman, min caps. Place below figures / above tables


Quick guide to most common comma uses

  • Inside quote mark for dialogue with attribution/dialogue tag – “Thank you,” he said.
  • Comma before introducing a name – “Hey, Jerry.” “Come on, Sally.”
  • Comma after an interjection or phrase – “Oh, really?” “Well, I guess not.” “Okay, honey.” “Oh my god, no.”
  • Comma before “then” when used as a conjunctive adverb – He closed the door, then removed his hat.
  • Comma before conjunction followed by introductory adverbial phrase/clause  – They beat him, and though it hurt, he refused to cry.
  • Comma after conjunction when used parenthetically – She bent and, nerves jittering, picked up the child.
  • No comma between two dependent clauses linked to conjunction – I wanted to dance, but my ankle was broken and I had a cold.
  • Optional comma before short adverbs at end of sentence – He decided he would come too / He decided he would come, too.
  • No Oxford (serial) commas unless needed for clarity


  • Australian date format – Tuesday 25 April 1990
  • Centuries: spell out – twentieth century
  • Decades – eighties, 1980s or 80s (no apostrophe – descriptive not possessive)
  • Eras: roman, capitals, no full stops – 55 BCE (before common era), CE (common era) BC and AD are no longer used 

Hyphens and Dashes

Defer to CMOS for hyphenation and numbers


Ages and measurements

  • Five-year-old child
  • Twenty-six-year-old man (or 26-year-old man)
  • One-hundred-metre race (or 100-metre race)
  • Two-and-a-half-year period but we did it for two and a half years
  • Six-foot-high fence but the fence is six foot high
  • Thirty- to forty-foot-high hills (hanging hyphens joins thirty to the compound adjective)
  • Two and half minutes went past (no hyphen when used as a noun)

Compass points

  • north-west
  • south-easterly wind
  • east-north-east


  • Spaced en dashes for parenthetical (or unspaced em dashes if client prefers)
  • En dashes for ranges – Thirty–forty trees, june–july


  • Dialogue: use sparingly and only for emphasis, else use roman with double quote marks
  • Foreign or unfamiliar words (first use only if repeated throughout, and only if not in dictionary)
  • Interiority/thoughts: only use italics if thought is present tense and unclear the prose is interiority
  • Interiority/thoughts: use either italics or quotes marks, not both
  • Interiority/thoughts: do not use italics if thought tag is used: He would never do it, I thought.
  • Onomatopoeia (unless word appears in dictionary)
  • Text messages: italics and indented
  • Words and letters as terms: What does incandescent mean? It’s a not an.


Use comma delineator

Words or numerals

  • Narrative: spell out numbers 1–100, or any numbers that can be written in three words or less – five, two hundred, seven thousand, two hundred thousand, twenty-two thousand
  • Dialogue: use words if more natural – he paid me one hundred and fifty thousand
  • Numerals when accompanied by abbrev. units or symbols – 8 km 55 ˚C
  • Ordinal numbers: suffixes not superscript 
  • Numerals and words: if a number over 100 is used in the same sentence as a number lower than 100, use numerals for both – Paul ran 9 kms, while Therese ran 105


  • Spell out 1–100 and simple rounded amounts – three cents, fifty dollars, two hundred dollars, million-dollar loan
  • Numerals above 100 and specific or uneven amounts – $1.15, $250, $75.56, $30,000, $1.4 million
  • Numerals to avoid large, hyphenated numbers as adjectives – a $100,000 loan (not one-hundred-thousand-dollar loan)

Measurements and Symbols

  • Metric unless US or imperial style requested or used figuratively – It felt like miles from home
  • Numerals for quantities accompanied by abbrev. units or symbols – 10 km, 25 ºC, 49˚ (angle), 30%
  • Words when used discursively, especially dialogue – one hundred per cent

Possessive apostrophes

Descriptive (attributive) phrases

  •  Descriptive phrases about time: no apostrophe – 4 weeks wages, 2 days time but a day’s work (to show singularity)
  •  Descriptive nouns – ladies toilets, visitors centre, directors meeting

Possessive nouns

  • Singular noun: add an apostrophe and s – the clown’s car, the manager’s office, the tree’s leaves
  • Plural nouns ending in s: add an apostrophe only – both bunkbeds’ coverings, all the teams’ performances, the Smiths’ boat
  • Plural nouns ending with es: the Joneses’ house, the bosses’ offices
  • Individual possession: Jones’s and Smith’s careers
  • Joint possession: Ahmed and Sasha’s garden

Quote Marks

  • While some Australian publishers still use single quotes, there is a movement towards double quotes due to issues with text to talk software.
  • Always use smart (curly) quotes.

Coined expressions, scare quotes, quoted speech, block quotes

  • Double for scare quotes, coined expressions, irony, colloquial use: They call him “Digger”. That was “interesting”.
  • Single for quotes within quotes
  • Double for quoted speech or text
  • Block quotes: >30 words, no quote marks


For full explanation and further examples, see blog: How to punctuate dialogue

  • Double quotes (unless client/publisher prefers single)
  • Ellipses with space before and after for mid-sentence pause: “I’m not … really sure.”
  • Ellipses with space before for trailing off dialogue: “If he hadn’t done it, well …”
  • Unspaced em dash for interrupted speech: “But you said you would—”
  • Unspaced em dashes for dialogue interrupted by action: “If we’re going to make this last”—he pointed at the money—”we should invest it carefully.”

Thought - direct and indirect

Defer to CMOS 13.43

  • No quote marks used for indirect or direct thoughts
  • Italics for direct thought only if unclear it is interiority (present tense) – Is he serious?
  • Roman for indirect thought (past tense) – This was going to hurt.
  • Roman, no quotes with attribution – Can I do this? she wondered. There’s no way I can do this, he thought.

Quoted (reported) speech

ASM page 113

  • As soon as he’d yelled “take it all”, I grabbed the box and ran.
  • “I couldn’t find it”. That’s what I recall him saying.
  • “Don’t get under my feet”, my father always said.

CMOS: When using whether, that or if

  • Was it Stevenson who said that “the cruellest lies are often told in silence”?
  • He wondered whether “to think is to live”.

Quotes within quotes

(Australian Handbook for Writers & Editors, M McKenzie pp181-183)

  • Single for quotes within quotes
  • Terminal punctuation inside: “I wasn’t going to go, but he said, ‘I really need you there.’”
  • Direct speech, attribution comma inside: “I heard her. ‘Don’t go,’ she said. So I didn’t.”
  • Indirect speech, no attribution, comma outside: “He told me his name was ‘Thor’, but I doubted it.”


  • Cross-referencing – p. 22,  pp. 22–23 (en dash)
  • Reference lists and in-text references: Author–date system



  • Roman, colon, double quotes – The sign read: “One Way Only”.
  • Small caps, not quotes –  The notice said: ONE WAY ONLY.


  • Use words where possible within narrative –  three o’clock, four in the afternoon, quarter to seven, five thirty
  • Numerals for specific time – 5:35 am, 6:17 pm
  • In dialogue: spell out – eight forty-five in the morning, five thirty in the afternoon

Manuscript formatting

Based on submission requirements for trade publishers

  • The following standard 9 ribbon styles are standard for formatting novel and narrative non-fiction manuscripts
  • Some publishers require 1 inch (2.54 cm) margins



Font: Times New roman

Paragraph Styling


Style Name





Space before/after

Line spacing

Space between paragraphs with same style

Line & Page breaks:


(indent first line)



First line .8 cm



Left / FirstPara

(opening para)






(dinkus breaks)



24pt before

24pt after



Chapter Title

(auto page break)




60pt before

24pt after



Auto page break before

Text wrapping: None



Bold or italics


24 after

36 after



Front Matter








1.6 cm right

1.6 cm left

12 before

12 after








120 before

48 after



Text Msg




1.2 cm

12 after



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