It came to our attention last night that The Wrap, in an article about Disney’s purchase of the Star Wars franchise, wrote of somebody named “Hans Solo” and referred to The Force Awakens as a “reboot.” (The article has since been quietly corrected.)
We at The A.V. Club take our Star Wars seriously, and, like the LA Times, have a dedicated Star Wars section of our style guide. (Although we admire a major newspaper for taking Star Wars style seriously, we really have to ponder the article’s headline, which poses the question, “Is It Wookie Or Wookiee?” If you have to ask…) Our style guide does not have an entry for Han Solo, because everybody knows that already.
We started this special topic section within The A.V. Club’s style guide when news of The Force Awakens reached a fever pitch several months ago and the copy desk grew weary with the disturbing lack of Star Wars correctness and consistency. Some of the rules listed below were born out of necessity, like the titles—which writers love to go rogue on and assign punctuation to willy-nilly—but others were born out of editing the sheer mass of Star Wars-related content that came across our desks and seeing the same mistakes over and over again. Not only is the Millennium Falcon italicized because it is the name of a ship, but people have a really hard time spelling “millennium” correctly.
And so we present the current iteration of The A.V. Club’s Star Wars style guide:
Chewie (not Chewy)
the Force (the light side and the dark side of the Force, not Light Side, Dark Side)
Industrial Light & Magic
Jabba The Hutt
Jar Jar Binks (not Jar-Jar)
Jedi, Jedi knight
Mos Eisley cantina
Star Wars: The Old Republic
Clichés: The following have become clichéd when writing about Star Wars and should not be used:
A long time ago
In a galaxy far, far away
These aren’t the ___ you’re looking for (or any variations thereof)
Note: Italicize Star Wars in all instances, unless for some reason you are referring to Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative.
Correct styling of Star Wars movie titles:
Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace
Star Wars: Episode II—Attack Of The Clones
Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge Of The Sith
Star Wars: Episode IV—A New Hope
Star Wars: Episode V—The Empire Strikes Back
Star Wars: Episode VI—Return Of The Jedi
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Most of these rules were considered decisions, made after research and conference with Onion Inc.’s many other Star Wars and grammar nerds—an unsurprisingly large overlap—but some are editorial calls, like the clichés section. After seeing approximately 4 billion variations on the introductory “a long time ago” and “in a galaxy far, far away,” in headlines and in copy, The A.V. Club copy editors went from defenders of language to seething sarlaccs ready to lay waste to the next person to write that 1977 was a long time ago or that the shooting locations were in a galaxy far, far away. (Even worse: the Star Wars galaxy’s far distance is emphasized with two descriptors, but its time frame is not: “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” is correct, not “A long, long time ago” or “a galaxy far away.” If you’re going to use the first reference that pops into your head, at least get the damn thing right.)
The savvy reader may notice that “Wookiee” is capitalized while “bantha” and “tauntaun” are not, and wonder about the discrepancy, as all are species. We confess that species are tough, and we make styling judgments that go against the traditional “rules” of species capitalizations for the creatures found in our own galaxy. (Dinosaurs present a particular challenge.) All we can say is that capitalization of “Wookiee” is firmly established in canon and in many resources, and sometimes the best we can do is make a gut call with these things. There’s only one Wookiee that really matters, anyway; banthas and tauntauns don’t bring the same weight to the screen as Chewie, and perhaps that’s why it feels right to accept a capitalization of his species even if it should technically be lowercase.
Our Star Wars style guide grew from a list of half a dozen common names and the correct titles to where it is today, and will continue to evolve to include new character names (“Rey,” not “Ray”), locations, and whatever lines people quote ad nauseam to clichédom. We’ll leave you with our favorite recent Star Wars catch: Tucson raider, when the writer meant Tusken raider. May the Force, not The Force, be with you.