Our ratings are based upon the Motion Picture Society of America's ratings guidelines - with 'story' in place of 'film'.
These are provided for the benefit of readers and writers outside the US, who have often expressed confusion over the meanings of the ratings. For reference, all the Star Wars movies are rated PG.
G - "General Audiences-All Ages Admitted."
This is a piece which contains nothing in theme, language, nudity, sex, or violence, etc. which would be offensive to parents whose younger children read the story. The G rating is not a "certificate of approval," nor does it signify a children's story.
Some snippets of language may go beyond polite conversation but they are common everyday expressions. No stronger words are present in G-rated stories. The violence is at a minimum. Nudity and sex scenes are not present; nor is there any drug use content.
PG - "Parental Guidance Suggested. Some Material May Not Be Suitable For Children."
This is a story which clearly needs to be examined or inquired into by parents before they let their children read. The label PG plainly states that parents may consider some material unsuitable for their children, but the parent must make the decision.
The theme of a PG-rated story may itself call for parental guidance. There may be some profanity in these stories. There may also be some violence or brief nudity. However, these elements are not deemed so intense as to require that parents be strongly cautioned beyond the suggestion of parental guidance.
PG-13 - "Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13."
PG-13 is thus a sterner warning to parents to determine for themselves the attendance in particular of their younger children as they might consider some material not suited for them. Parents, by the rating, are alerted to be very careful about the attendance of their under-teenage children.
A PG-13 story is one which leaps beyond the boundaries of the PG rating in theme, violence, nudity, sensuality, language, or other contents, but does not quite fit within the restricted R category. Any drug use content will initially require at least a PG-13 rating. In effect, the PG-13 cautions parents with more stringency than usual to give special attention to this story before they allow their 12-year olds and younger to read.
If nudity is sexually oriented, the story will generally not be found in the PG-13 category. If violence is too rough or persistent, the story goes into the R (restricted) rating. A story's single use of one of the harsher sexually-derived words, though only as an expletive, shall initially give the story at least a PG-13 rating. More than one such expletive must lead to an R rating, as must even one of these words used in a sexual context. These stories can be rated less severely, however, if by a special vote, a lesser rating would more responsibly reflect the opinion of American parents.
R - "Restricted, Under 17 Requires Accompanying Parent Or Adult Guardian."
This story definitely contains some adult material. Parents are strongly urged to find out more about this story before they allow their children to read them.
An R-rated story may include harsh language, explicit violence, or nudity within sensual scenes, drug abuse or other elements, or any combination of the above, so that parents are counselled, in advance, to take this advisory rating very seriously.
NC-17 - "No One 17 And Under Admitted."
This rating declares that this is a story that most parents will consider patently too adult for their youngsters under 17. No children will be admitted. NC-17 does not necessarily mean "obscene or pornographic" in the oft-accepted or legal meaning of those words. These are legal terms and for courts to decide. The reasons for the application of an NC-17 rating can be violence or sex or aberrational behaviour or drug abuse or any other elements which, when present, most parents would consider too strong and therefore off-limits for viewing by their children.