Table of Contents
  1. Purpose of this document
  2. General editorial policy
  3. Did You Notice (DYN) guidelines
  4. Reference Guidelines
  5. Previous episode reference guidelines
  6. "Freeze frame fun" guidelines
  7. Goofs guidelines
  8. Review guidelines
  9. "Comments and other observations" guidelines
  10. Quotes and Scene Summary guidelines
  11. How to make capsule submissions
  12. Will you see something I post to the Simpsons mailing list?
  13. How credit is given
  14. A final note

1) Purpose of this document

When Raymond Chen put together the first episode capsule years ago, he would provide his own observations and material. As time went by, other people got in on the act, and the capsules became more elaborate. Today, it can be a little daunting for someone who just wants to point out a funny joke or two, but doesn't know the difference between a DYN and a FFF. While the capsules aren't intended to be very formal and rigid, there are some "rules of the road" that, if followed, will result in better episode capsules for everyone. These guidelines will explain in detail what the various sections of the capsule are for, and how you can contribute to them.

By the way, if you're wondering what the heck an "episode capsule" is, then you need to read the Episode Capsule FAQ.

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2) General editorial policy

The primary purposes of our episode capsules is to provide as complete a summary as possible of each new episode, including as broad a sampling of opinions and contributors as we can. They are also supposed to present that information in a nice, organized way. We here at The Simpsons Archive are aiming toward having a consistent "look and feel" that makes it easier for people to find the information that they want.

The final capsules are produced according to a set of rules that tell how to lay out and punctuate each section. These standards are now "enforced" by a capsule compilation tool, which means that you don't need to be obsessively concerned about the form of your submissions. As you will see when you read these guidelines, I'm now more concerned with content -- making sure that every DYN is a good DYN, for example.

As far as general content goes, here are a few guidelines:

  • Write coherently. You don't have to use the Queen's English, but "Hey d00d, thiz 3pizod3 wuz k-rad" is going too far the other way.
  • I'll fix the spelling or grammar boners that I see (unless they were intentional), but I can't guarantee to catch everything. So, be sure to spell- and grammar-check your own stuff.
  • "The Simpsons" isn't a show for children, but children do watch the show and read the episode capsules. Keep this in mind when writing your submissions, and don't get too adult, now.
  • Don't worry about expressing an unpopular opinion. I won't leave something out of the capsule just because I disagree with it. As a matter of fact, I think it's interesting to have a diverse range of viewpoints to read about.

Finally, I promise not to be too capricious about it, but as the episode capsule editor I reserve the right to decide what I'll include in the capsule. It's one of the perks of the job.

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3) Did You Notice (DYN) guidelines

A DYN is a joke that is -- and this is very important, now -- not immediately obvious. It can be a little detail like a prop the character is handling, or a situation that's funny only after you've thought about it for a minute. Generally, though, it isn't something that the show points out to the audience, or something that you'd see if you were only half-paying attention to the show.


[from 7F08]
... when Homer misses the putt, he hops and waves his arms just like
    the big mechanical ape that is the obstacle he's trying to clear?

[from 8F16]
... Ms. Krabappel wore earrings in the tub?

[from 3F23]
... even though this is the perfect place and everything, the vending
    machine still won't take Homer's bills?
Speaking of "You Only Move Twice (3F23)," that episode had showed a bum transforming into a mailbox, as part of a film showing the urban renewal of a town. This was the only thing shown on the screen at that point, and there was no other joke or dialogue distracting the audience. A few people posted it as a DYN, but it was really too self-evident to be one.


Each DYN completes a sentence beginning "Did you notice...." When you write your DYNs, put them in question form (just like on "Jeopardy!") so they'll form a good sentence. For instance, the second example could be read, "Did you notice Ms. Krabappel wore earrings in the tub?" Since you're starting in mid-sentence, don't capitalize the first letter, unless it's a word that's normally capitalized, like "Homer." It's also helpful if you end the DYNs with a question mark rather than a period.

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4) Reference Guidelines

A "reference" in the capsules is something that is parodied on the show. It is not a real-life event or thing that simply appears, or is spoken of by a character. Also, a reference should be fairly clear-cut. When submitting a reference, point to the specific parallels between the parody on "The Simpsons" and the source.


[from 7F14]
  - The Cosby Show
      - Dr. Hibbert's home and family bear a more-than-coincidental
        similarity to a program that competes with The Simpsons for
        the Thursday 8pm time slot [Which it did at one time -- Ed.]

[from 2F05]
  - "The Mighty Ducks"
      - Chief Wiggum's team is called "The Mighty Pigs"
      - their logo is a hockey mask bent into a pig snout, similar to
        the Ducks' hockey mask bent into a duck's beak

[from 2F08]
  - "Cheers"
      - the characters from the TV show "Cheers" appear on "The
        Simpsons", and their lines are stereotypical parodies of what
        the real characters would say

[from 3F14]
  - King Cobra Malt Liquor
     - "King Pin Malt Liquor" on the race cars
Conversely, former editor James Cherry provides a list of things that aren't references.
  o [2F01] Vanessa Williams
      - The radio DJ says, "Continuing our `Sign of Evil' countdown,
        here's Vanessa Williams."  Certainly, implying Vanessa Williams
        is evil is amusing, but there's no parody: he just says her
  o [2F05] Hot-oil wrestling
      - Homer says girls should stick to girls' sports such as hot-oil
        wrestling.  He mentions something that exists in real life, and
        while hot-oil wrestling is ridiculous and therefore funny,
        there's no parody, so it's not a reference.
  o [2F08] "It's Raining Men"
      - Moe takes this record (purportedly, Homer's favorite song) out
        of the juke box.  Yes, it's a real song, and yes, it's funny
        that it would be Homer's favorite, but where's the parody?
  o [2F13] Yahoo Serious
      - Conover shows a slide of a boarded-up movie theater that was
        featuring a "Yahoo Serious Festival". The idea of having a whole
        film festival based on Yahoo Serious movies is funny, but
        there's no parody involved.
  o [2F16] Slant drilling
      - Burns' oil well sign boasts of its slant-drilling operation.
        Such operations are illegal in Texas, I'm told, and although
        slant drilling actually exists and that it's funny that Burns
        would so wantonly disregard the legalities of it, it's not a
  o [2F21] The "Star Wars" theme
      - The Springfield Pops plays John William's famous theme.  They're
        just playing it; there's no parody.
Note that the above points are all interesting to include in the capsule; it's just that they don't belong in the "Reference" section. Instead, they are good candidates for the "Comments" section (see part 9 of these guidelines).


References aren't complete sentences, so you don't need to capitalize the first letter, or end it with a period. You should put movie, song, and television titles in quotation marks, though. If your reference has more than one parallel point (like the "Mighty Ducks" reference in the examples above), put each point on a separate line. That makes things easier for our automated capsule layout program.

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5) Previous episode reference guidelines

This category has become broader over time, so that a previous episode reference can be any one of these things:

  • Someone or something referring to an event that took place in a previous episode. (This was the original definition, I think.)
  • A similar situation that occurs in a previous episode.
  • An identical or very similar line spoken in a previous episode.

This is a broad category; by the above definitions, "Homer says 'D'oh!'" would be a previous episode reference (to just about every other episode). The idea is for the reference to appear in at most, say, three previous episodes.


[from 2F19]
- [7G04] Lisa refers to Vassar
- [8F05], [8F22] Bart plays chess
- [9F22] Snake uses monosyllables when he doesn't understand (cf.
         Bart in 2F19)
- [1F07] Ned uses the phrase "a dilly of a pickle"
- [1F18] Ned acts as the head of the PTA

[from AABF08]
- Shoddy Springfield Elementary field trips
   - [7G03] SNPP
   - [7F06] Springfield Gorge
   - [8F03] "Ah-Fudge" (Okay, so this was a good one!)
   - [8F14] Lisa wants Marge to sign her permission slip
   - [1F11] The Box Factory
   - [2F19] Springfield civil war site
   - [3F21] Unscheduled field trip to the auto-wrecking yard
   - [4F17] Skinner mentions a field trip to Albany
   - [4F21] The Police Department
   - [5F05] Archeological dig
   - [AABF08] Springfield Post Office

The important thing is to begin each reference with the production code of the previous episode, and to have one unique reference per line. If a reference refers to more than one episode (like "Bart plays chess," above) then list each episode before the reference. You don't need to put the dash or brackets around the reference, since the capsule formatting tool will do that on its own. You do, however, need to refer to the episode by its production code, or at least its title. If you refer to an episode by only a description like, "the one where Bart rents a car," I might not be able to figure out what episode you're talking about. If I can't, I'll ignore the reference, even if it's valid. If you don't know the production code of an episode, you can find a good list of them at the capsule main page. Finally, your verbs should be in present tense. (That is, "Lisa refers to Vassar," rather than "Lisa referred to Vassar.")

Sometimes, someone notices a running trend, and can create a mini-list of previous episode references. This is what happened for "Sunday, Cruddy Sunday (AABF08)," when Jordan Eisenberg created a list of SES field trips. If you notice a trend like that (and I'd say four or more entries make a trend), go ahead and make a mini-list. Format each entry as with a regular previous episode reference, and add a descriptive title. Just be sure that you aren't duplicating a list that already exists on the Archive somewhere, like the Internet References List!

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6) "Freeze frame fun" guidelines

This category is for listing things that one usually needs to pause one's VCR to see. (For instance, a rapidly scrolling list of names, or something seen briefly in the background.) There are many such things in the Simpsons; if you don't believe me, go back to "Who Shot Mr. Burns, Part II (2F20)" and look at the DNA computer name list with your VCR on pause. (Or, check the capsule!)

As well, the contents of most things like signposts, billboards, and newspaper headlines are appropriate, even if they linger long enough for you to see them without pausing your VCR.


[from 9F11]

- Sign on the Complaints line
     | E N T E R |
     |  H E R E  |
     |  W A I T  |
     | FROM HERE |
     | ____      |
     | | 2| HRS. |
     | |__|      |

[from 4F11]

- Buttons in display case
  - "Harrison"  (on top of a medal, can't read the writing)
  - "I Fell for Dole - "[can't read] for Ford" - "Quayle Can't Fayle"
  - "I Like Ike"  (Eisenhower)
  - "I Still Like Ike"  (w/ his picture)
  - "Click with Dick"  (w/ Richard Nixon's picture)
  - "Carter"  (on a peanut)

For a sign, imitate the layout as well as the text. (If you like ASCII art, this is the category for you!) The imitation doesn't need to be too elaborate -- usually, just having the words laid out as they are on the sign will be sufficient. Lists should be done either in point form or, for those really long lists, in comma-separated form.

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7) Goofs guidelines

A goof, as the name implies, is an error of some sort. There are a variety of things that are goofs:

  • Errors in animation (something drawn incorrectly or missing, something appearing from out of the blue, etc.).
  • Errors in continuity (things changing places between camera angles).
  • Contradictions with previous episodes.

Some things, while impossible, are probably not goofs. For example, Krusty lighting the pearls on fire in "Homie the Clown (2F12)" is clearly impossible in real life, but it's probably supposed to be a joke. Try to separate things that are intended as humorous from things that are actually errors.

Some things could be either goofs, or DYNs, or neither. For example, is it a goof in "Lisa the Vegetarian (3F03)" when Lisa notices that I&S cartoons imply violence against animals is funny? It might be, because it contradicts other episodes where surely she has noticed this already. Or maybe that was the first time she noticed it: is it a DYN? Maybe. You'll have to make the call.


[from 7F22]
When Homer checks his watch, it reads "7:02A", yet when he leaves the
office, the clock over the door reads five minutes to 3.

[from 1F16]
Krusty reads the teleprompter paper in the 1982 show, but he was illiterate
then [7G12].

[from 4F15]
Does Rex Banner ever sleep?  He's tailing Homer late at night.  Besides,
how'd he know Homer was out there stealing the beer anyway?

Unlike most other items, goofs really are complete sentences, so use the usual sentence form. Note that goofs can be either regular sentences ("Marge's hair is red.") or questions ("Since when is Marge's hair red?")

You don't need to provide the category symbol (described in the Episode Capsule FAQ) if you don't want to; that's done here at the capsule factory.

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8) Review guidelines

My general policy is not to include a review "too long" after an episode airs. In this case, "too long" would mean more than a week or so. There are usually enough reviews submitted shortly after the episode airs to fill the capsule, and a review long after an episode airs can be tainted by one's opinion of newer episodes. I'm trying to capture the "public opinion" at the time the episode aired. That can be important if the public has a gradual change of heart: "Today 'The Principal and the Pauper (4F23)' is considered a classic, but when it first aired, people hated it."

Unfortunately, this policy virtually guarantees that no one from a country outside North America will get a review in a capsule. (Although occasionally someone with a satellite feed does get a review in on time.) I apologize to you all; at least you can still submit DYNs and references, and comments that we North Americans might have missed.

While it would be nice to be able to include everyone's opinion, this would make the capsules too long. Therefore, I include at most twenty reviews in any capsule. (My own review doesn't count toward that total. Another perk of the job.) In case you were wondering, your review doesn't have to be in line with what I thought of the episode. I try to get a sample that represents the range of opinion, good and bad.


[from 2F08]
John J. Wood:  Grade: D. I cannot argue with the negative reviews.
This episode was disjointed, its gags formulaic and flat, and its lone
consolation is that we learn more about Marge.  Yes, it would have been
nice to have seen more Cheers, but the key word that came to my mind
after watching it on video again was "stale."

[from 2F15]
Tony Hill:  This episode was an all-around laugh riot.  The flash-forward
was packed end to end with side-splitting scenes.  Mandy Patinkin actually
appeared in something funny!  We even got a glimpse of what might be in
store for Maggie. (Too bad they couldn't find a grown-up version of Liz to
do the voice.)  A solid A!

[from 4F13]
Dale G. Abersold:  I may be in danger of sounding like a broken record
here, but I loved this episode.  The trials of life as a babysitter were
accurately and humorously portrayed by Dan Greaney, proving himself once
again to be the best writer on the staff.  Only Bart's apology at the end
(Why?  He'd be gloating at his victory.) marred the episode for me.  A.

Be concise! The ideal length is around five lines, and anything more than ten would be pushing it. Summarize what you liked and disliked about the episode in a few sentences. Finally, include a letter grade. I need this so the capsule compiler tool can figure the average grade from all the reviewers. Valid grades range from "F" to "A+". There is no such thing as an "F-" or "F+" as far as the compiler tool is concerned, so these will be "normalized" to "F". Also, grades like "A+++" will be normalized so they fall within the standard range.

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9) "Comments and other observations" guidelines

This broad category includes more detailed discussions of real events or people mentioned in connection with an episode. In fact, discussions about things that are referred to but that are not "references" as defined in section four belong here.

One of the original purposes for this section was to provide an explanation of things that might not be readily understood outside North America. This still holds true now, although I'd bet that a lot of people inside North America would benefit from the information in the "Comments" section.


[from 3G03]
>> Homer's source of "mature" entertainment

Jason Hancock:  ESPN is cable TV's premier sports network.  Founded in
1979 as the world's first 24-hour sports network, it is known for showing
obscure sports, like women's volleyball, to fill holes in its schedule.
But it also airs major sports like NFL and college football, major league
baseball, college basketball, and NHL hockey as well as the popular
"SportsCenter" sports newscasts.

Ordinary paragraphs will do nicely here.

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10) Quotes and Scene Summary guidelines

The most important thing to know about episode transcripts is that you don't have to do them! You'll just be wasting your time of you submit a transcript. Writing those is as much of an art as it is a science, so we'd rather deal with a limited group of writers who have a "style" we already know we like. As a matter of fact, we've already made arrangements with a few transcript writers, so you can just sit back, relax, and leave the job to us.


On the other hand, a brief explanation of the format might help you with reading transcripts. Blocks of stage directions will be preceded with percent signs ("%"), like so:

% Burns tries ready to cut the ceremonial ribbon on the power plant
% expansion, but can't force the scissors closed.  Smithers reaches
% around to help him with the scissors, and cuts the ribbon.  Then
% he gives Burns the thumbs-up.
The quotations themselves are pretty self-explanatory:
Bart:   [rubbing head] Ow!  That hurt!
Homer:  Yeah, but what are you going to do?
-- Homer's headache cure, "The Simpsons vs. Godzilla"
The name before the colon indicates who's speaking. Stage directions are in [square brackets]. The remainder of the text is the character's dialogue, of course. At the end of the quote will be a smart-alec quip (if we could think of one) and the episode title. Why do we do this? When Raymond Chen wrote the first episode capsules, people liked to store the quotes in random quote generators, which were popular on computers running Unix. The transcript format made it easy for people to automatically store lots of "Simpsons" quotes, and the tagline at the end of the quote helped put it in context. I don't know if people still do this, but I've elected to continue the tradition.

Occasionally, you'll see a quote that looks like this:

If only more people sang the blues, the world would be a happier place.
-- Lisa, "The Simpsons vs. Godzilla"
This is just a one-liner quote. It's identical in content to the following example, but looks better:
Lisa:  If only more people sang the blues, the world would be a
       happier place.
-- "The Simpsons vs. Godzilla"
Finally, don't try to remember which episode these examples came from. I made them up just now.

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11) How to make capsule submissions

There are two ways you can submit stuff to be included in a capsule.

  • Post it in the newsgroup. I will most likely see it, either on my ISP's news feed, or on a Usenet archive like
  • E-mail it to me directly. The best address to use is is also a good choice.
Neither way is considered "better" than the other. That is, I don't favor the people who e-mail me over the people who post submissions in a newsgroup, or vice-versa. Use whichever method is more reliable for you. That is your news feed is flaky, use e-mail, or if your e-mail is flaky, use news. (If both are flaky, get a different ISP!)

If you post your review, it's a smart idea to give it a title that makes it obvious the message is a review. I'm likely to miss a review called, "Simpsons," or "That was great!" Some good titles would be:

   [production code] Capsule submission for "title"
   [REVIEW] "title"
   Review of last night's episode
Or something along those lines. Note that you don't have to know the production code or title exactly; just give your review a good common-sense title. (And if you're mailing it in, don't get cute and call it "Make Money Fast," or some such; even if it gets past the filter, I'm likely to junk it unread.)

Please note: I will only include your submission if I know your real name, both first and last. It's "The Simpsons," so there isn't any reason to remain anonymous. Either make sure your name is included somewhere in your submission, or e-mail me privately telling me your full name. Submissions sent under a name like, "Die Spammers <>" generally aren't used.

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12) Will you see something I post to the Simpsons mailing list?

Unfortunately, no. I don't have the time to read, the mail account, and the Simpsons-L mailing list. All is not lost if you're a Simpsons-L member, however. According to Simpson-L's intrepid Jouni Paakkinen, when you submit your review to the list, you can send a copy at the same time to the capsule mail account. (Simply put "" in your mail program's "CC:" field.) The message will automatically be sent to both places, with no extra effort on your part, and I'll be able to see your contributions.

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13) How credit is given?
  • If I copy text verbatim from your article, you'll definitely get credit.
  • If you're the first person to say something, you'll probably get credit.
  • If many people notice something, or it's "obvious" (to me), you probably won't get credit. To be consistent, I'll consider anything noticed by three or more people (not including me) to be obvious.
I try to be fair and consistent, but I do slip up. If I do, please don't get too mad at me, and remember, it's only a capsule. It's not the end of the world. You may bring errors to my attention at

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14) A final note

People like to say that so-and-so is writing the capsules, but that is not really true. The majority of the material in the capsules comes from people like yourselves, who send in submissions. If I had to write absolutely everything, these capsules would be much shorter and probably not nearly as good. So, I want to thank you for taking the time to post or e-mail your observations.

Finally, in the words of former capsule editor James Cherry:

Can any other TV show boast such a wonderfully complete archive of material compared to "The Simpsons"? I doubt it. And with your help, it will be both enviably complete _and_ enviably consistent. Let's keep the quality high.

Take care, and see you on!

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Capsule Submission Guidelines (revision E) copyright 1999 Benjamin Robinson. Parts of these guidelines were taken directly from the previous edition, which is copyright 1996 James A. Cherry. Valuable HTML help (for the Web version of these guidelines, at least) provided by Brian Petersen.

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Last updated on September 24, 1999 by Benjamin Robinson (