Universal Book Rating System (UBRS)

As a reader, we all know what we like and dislike. We all have our preferred content levels and those in which we simply don't want to read. Based on a perceived need in the book world, BookToker and Bookstagrammer Jessica Bethard has developed the Universal Book Rating System. The UBRS takes into account language, graphic content, and sexual content, and it can be applied to any book. The 3-part system can be represented as a graphic on the book cover, on the webpage, or in text form in a blurb or review.

Like anything new, this is a work in progress, and that's where YOU come in. A description of the system is below with an example graphic. Please help us come up with the best, most inclusive system by participating in this survey!

Profanity/Language
 

Indicated by a dot on the UBRS, the number of dots will correspond to the language and profanity content as follows:

 

  • 0 dots: No curse words, profanity, or cussing

  • 1 dot: Averages to less than one light swear word (damn, shit, hell, bitch, ass) per chapter. For example, if the book has 30 chapters, you can expect 29 or less light swear words in the entire book

  • 2 dots: More than one swear word per chapter, excluding “heavy” swear words. Swear words like damn, hell, and shit are included in this level. No limits on the amount of swear words. It is the same "level" of words as 1 dot, but there is no limit on the frequency.

  • 3 dots:  All of the above plus the addition of the more offensive swear words such as the F-word and G-damn, but the "heavy" words are used less than 1 time per chapter. More descriptive anatomical terms are used.

  • 4 dots: No limits on words used or the amount of usage. Expect liberal use of profanity and anatomical terms. 

Graphic Content
 

This section includes violence and traumatic sexual encounters and is rated on an alphabetical scale.

 

  • A rating: None

  • B rating: Violence or trauma occurs off the page or in a fade to black manner. You as a reader are aware that it occurred, but the encounter is described without detailed descriptions.

  • C rating: This level allows for descriptive violence and/or traumatic sexual encounters. This must be limited to 1 scene per 100 pages.

  • D rating: This level allows for descriptive violence and/or traumatic sexual encounters. The scenes can occur more than one scene per 100 pages but in less than 75% of the chapters. 

  • E rating: This level allows for descriptive violence and/or traumatic sexual encounters in more than 75% of the book’s chapters.

Sexual Content
 

This section uses a numerical 6 point scale to rate the sexual descriptiveness. All consensual sexual activities are included in this category.

 

  • 1: Very few chaste kisses and one (maximum) passionate kiss is allowed at this level. There can be no sex (implied or otherwise) in the book. 

  • 2: At this level all forms of kissing and light, over the clothes touching is allowed. No orgasms or sex, implied or otherwise, is allowed. 

  • 3: Anything more than level 2 is implied and/or done off the page. Otherwise known as closed door. 

  • 4: At this level descriptive sex scenes are allowed. They must remain mild and not be the focus of the story. There must be at least one chapter between each sex scene. 

  • 5: Highly descriptive sex scenes, but these scenes cannot be the primary focus of the book.

  • 5+: When the + symbol is added, it indicates that there are more than 2 parties engaging in the sex scenes.

  • 6: At this level, the book can be classified as erotica. The driving force of the book is the very descriptive, very lengthy sex scenes, while the plot may be secondary.

  • 6+:  When the + symbol is added, it indicates that there are more than 2 parties engaging in the sex scenes.
     

I bet you're thinking that this could be very complex or confusing. It's not, really! Below are examples of my books to see how this information can be conveyed.

Take a Chance on Me
  • B for content: This book contains discussion of an off-the-page traumatic sexual experience.

  • 4 for sexual content: There is one open-door love scene.

  • 3 dots for language: Occasional use of profanity, including the f word.

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XOXO
  • A for content: There is no violent content or traumatic sexual content in this book.

  • 3 for sexual content: This is a fade-to-black love story.

  • 3 dots for language: Occasional use of profanity, including the f word.

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