The Fine Lines editors have compiled the following style guide to assist contributors and editors alike.

Page Layout

Fine Lines prose submissions must be single-spaced in 10- or 12-point Times New Roman font with one–inch margins. Paragraphs should be in block format, including one space between each one. Submissions should be left aligned with only one space after all punctuation.

We ask that you carefully edit all poetry submissions. Often times, word processing programs will automatically edit poetry (i.e. capitalize the first letters of lines that follow the press of “enter”) when the author does not intend it. When submitting poetry, please include additional instructions as to formatting issues. Otherwise, we will follow the above prose layout for all poetry submissions.

Fine Lines accepts submissions in many forms, but we prefer electronic submissions, whether by email or by disk/CD. With several different word processing programs available, we ask that all electronic submissions be saved as .rtf, .doc, or .pdf files.

If replies are requested, include a self-addressed, stamped envelope, or make this request in the email submission.

Sentence Structure

We have compiled the following information in response to the most common errors Fine Lines encounters while editing submissions for publication.

Passive Voice

Fine Lines recommends that writers use active rather than passive voice for concise, direct sentences. Active voice has the subject performing the action of the verb; whereas, in passive voice, the object precedes the verb.

Active Voice: John threw the ball.
Passive Voice: The ball was thrown by John.

This does not mean, however, that writers should completely discard the passive voice.

Subject-Verb Agreement

Write so that subjects and verbs agree:

Incorrect: The boys throws the ball.
Correct: The boys throw the ball.

A verb should always agree with the number of its subject. When words and phrases come between the subject and the verb, the verb should not be affected.

Example: Each of the boys dressed in his own unique way.

Furthermore, the words each, either, everyone, everybody, neither, nobody, and someone all use a singular verb form.

When connecting nouns to a singular subject with except, together with, as well as, with, no less than, and in addition to, use a singular verb.

Example: Her typing as well as her attitude was impeccable.

Pronoun Shifts

Use consistent pronouns (I, she/he, one, and so on) throughout sentences and paragraphs.

Incorrect: When Kim eats at a fast food restaurant, one should not expect prime rib.
Correct: When Kim eats at a fast food restaurant, she should not expect prime rib.



In a list consisting of three or more words or phrases, use commas after each item except for the last.

Example: Each boy wore khakis, a white dress shirt, and dress shoes.

When directly addressing by one’s name or title, use commas to set off the direct address.

Example: Each of the boys, Mr. Davis, presented himself with dignity and authority.

When joining two independent clauses with a coordinating conjunction (FAN BOYS: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so), place a comma immediately before the conjunction.

Example: The swim team ate at a fast food restaurant before their swim meet, and some of the swimmers became ill after competing.

Place a comma following introductory elements in a sentence.

Example: In 1998, Clinton invited the SDSU Marching Jackrabbits to march in his inaugural parade.
Example: After his capture, Saddam Hussein stood trial for his actions.


Use semicolons between two independent clauses or between two clauses of varying topics to avoid run-on sentences.

Example: William Shakespeare is known for more than his plays and poetry; he is famous for inventing the word assassination.

Semicolons are often used with words such as however, accordingly, therefore, besides, indeed, thus, and then.

Wrong: I always wanted to teach math, however, I became a podiatrist instead.
Right: I always wanted to teach math; however, I became a podiatrist instead.

The exception to the semicolon rule is when combining short independent clauses.

Example: You win some, you lose some.

Documentation Information

Fine Lines requests MLA documentation for all submissions.

Using and Acknowledging Sources

Writers must decide whether to quote, paraphrase, or summarize their sources.


Writers use direct quotes in the following situations:

  • when the author's opinions differ greatly from those of other experts in the field.

  • when the author's words are considered authority and will aid in the writer's position/argument.

  • when the writer seeks to emphasize the author's opinions.

  • when the writer cannot paraphrase a memorable quote without changing the implied meaning in the author's original statement.


Paraphrase only the passages where the information is relevant but the language and writing are insignificant.


Summarize longer passages or entire works where the information is interesting but more than what is necessary for the essay. Summaries are often used for providing necessary background information.

In-text Citations

Brief quotations that are four or less lines in length are incorporated into the text of an essay. Quotations can appear at any point within a sentence but should never stand alone without an attributive tag (introductory element). If the entire sentence – quote and attributive tag – is referring to the quoted material, a parenthetical citation appears at the end of the sentence. Parenthetical citations include the author(s)’s last name followed by the page number(s) of the quoted information enclosed in parentheses and, with the sentence’s final punctuation occurring after the in-text citation. If the author is referred to in the attributive tag, then the last name is not necessary in the citation.

Example: The use of parallelism in literature often has rhetorical, or persuasive, strategies. Ray Bradbury uses the device frequently in Fahrenheit 451: “Strangers come and violate you. Strangers come and cut your heart out. Strangers come and take your blood” (16).

When citing poetry and drama, use the space-slash-space method between separate lines of text. Copy all capitalization as is in the original text. In the citation, include the act, scene, and line numbers only, each followed by a period and no spaces between.

Example: Alluding to the Philomela from Greek mythology, Shakespeare writes, “Philomel, with melody / Sing in our sweet lullaby” (2.2.13-14).

Block quotes are used for quoted material more than four lines in length. Block quotes are indented one inch (two tabs or ten spaces) from the left margin, are double spaced, have left-flushed first lines, and include no quotation marks, except when the original text has quotation marks already included. The parenthetical documentation occurs after the final punctuation. Refer to the following example:

He was eating a light supper at nine in the evening when the front door cried out in the hall and Mildred

ran from the parlor like a native fleeing an eruption of Vesuvius. Mrs. Phelps and Mrs. Bowles came

through the front door and vanished into the volcano's mouth with martinis in their hands. Montag stopped

eating. They were like a monstrous crystal chandelier tinkling in a thousand chimes, he saw their

Cheshire Cat smiles burning through the walls of the house, and now they were screaming at each other

above the din. (Bradbury 93)

Works Cited

Fine Lines requests that all submissions be written using MLA format. We suggest that you refer to the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Sixth Edition for up-to-date information on in-text citation and works cited.