This is not an important question but I always wonder when I type a question about an episode of a TV show:

How should one format the episode number of a TV show?

Here are some examples, among many possibilities:

  1. In the second episode of the third season,...
  2. In "Tabula Rasa",...
  3. In Season 3 episode 2,...
  4. In S03E02,...
  5. In 03x02,...

I usually go for the first one, but some other would be faster to type.

Is there an option that is preferable to the other ones? Should some option be banned?

  • 2
    It depends on the show
    – Valorum
    Sep 4, 2018 at 6:20
  • 8
    So long as it is clear what show, season, and episode the OP is talking about, then it doesn't matter. I have a personal convention I used for my own posts, and if I need to edit clarity into someone else's post, I'll use it there too. Otherwise, I'd say it doesn't matter.
    – amflare
    Sep 4, 2018 at 18:34
  • I prefer #4 ... :) Sep 22, 2018 at 19:57

3 Answers 3


We shouldn't have an official "style" for Episode names/numbers.

Aside from the amazing number of noisy edits that it would take to bring all the old posts up to date with a "standard", we'd run into other issues:

  • Using a style that doesn't fit with the work's chosen number/naming system (Many shows specifically use a format like S01E01/S1E1/E101 and S02E01/S2E1/E201, and searching via that format is genuinely useful for pulling up results)
  • Clarifying if the number (such as Season X Episode Y) is the planned episode number, number as originally aired, number released on disc, number as displayed on a streaming website (While this last one might sound silly, I have an anecdotal example of a show where I've purchased the whole 1st season from Amazon Prime, but half a dozen of the "part 2" episodes are from Season 2, and they list 3-4 seasons, whereas there's only 2.)
  • Maintaining this style if we ever change our mind on the convention becomes another edit nightmare

Instead, we should just let the author's original format stand, and if necessary supplement it with the actual title of the episode if it's necessary to make the question more clear (such as might be the case when there's different orderings, like in my 2nd bullet as seen with Firefly).

  • 1
    This is so un-Germanic, and lacks organisation, I have to downvote. We don’t need to fix up old posts, but we can set a good precedent henceforth.
    – Edlothiad
    Sep 4, 2018 at 20:40
  • 7
    @Edlothiad No, because if it's upvoted on meta it's going to be interpreted as policy and people are going to start editing unsuspecting users' posts to match the "style guide" and it's going to start problems. And just because you "don't need to fix up old posts" doesn't mean that some people won't do that anyway, and then point to this question as justification. It's pointless to micromanage posts when the standard edict regarding edits fits just fine: Edit to clarify or add additional pertinent information.We don't make trivial edits, or change localization spellings, for example.
    – user31178
    Sep 4, 2018 at 20:56
  • 1
    Agreed that enforcing a policy is bad. I do think we can get away with giving some general recommendations, provided they are clearly marked as advisory.
    – Kevin
    Sep 8, 2018 at 1:06
  • I don't agree that it's bad to talk about a preferred format. It's useful to agree on a standard way of referring to episodes. The agreement simply needs to make clear that the format is not mandatory.
    – Blackwood
    Sep 8, 2018 at 1:47
  • 1
    @Blackwood Historically, I've seen upvoted suggestions turned into mandatory, even moderator-enforced policy as time goes on and the original atmosphere was lost and all that was left was the most upvoted post. Meta is for discussion, but our stack has a very, very strong habit of needing each discussion to have a clear-cut "winner" that can be used as a "policy".
    – user31178
    Sep 8, 2018 at 2:53

As Web Head's answer says, there is no universal style or format. Write what makes sense to you, and try to be unambiguous.

There are some rules of thumb that I like to follow when I am referencing a specific episode:

  1. Always include the series or season number and episode number.
    • If the show includes episode and/or season numbers on the title screen (e.g. Avatar: The Last Airbender), use those.
    • Otherwise, follow the conventions of reliable and semi-reliable sources like TV Guide, Wikipedia, and (for Star Trek in particular) Memory Alpha.
    • If the creators have stated a preference to avoid numbering, then omit numbers. Also consider omitting numbers for anthology shows which have little or no internal continuity (e.g. The Twilight Zone, Black Mirror).
  2. Always include the title of the episode, and the title of the show if not obvious from context (e.g. in a question about all of Star Trek, indicate which show you mean). Abbreviations are OK if they are likely to be understood (e.g. TOS, TAS, TNG, DS9, VOY, ENT, and DISC are all fair to use for Star Trek).
  3. Enclose the title in quotation marks (no italics).
  4. Italicize the name of the show (no quotes). Don't italicize abbreviations.
  5. Within an answer, always use the exact same style throughout (e.g. "season 1, episode 23" vs. "S1E23" vs "episode 1x23" etc.), but it's OK if different answers to different questions use different styles.

I think (1) and (2) are more important than the rest of the list, but the whole thing is my personal preference. I would not edit someone else's answer to conform to any of these rules (and you shouldn't, either). I might edit someone else's answer if I found it confusing enough, but only to add detail, not to enforce style.

Again, do not edit anyone else's answer to conform to any of these rules.


My preference is Title, followed by Season and Episode number.

"The City on the Edge of Forever" (S1E28).

I usually put the combined season and episode number in parentheses when the TV series is already known, but will use them as shorthand for writing "the Xth episode of the Yth season" when needed.

"The City on the Edge of Forever", S1E28 of Star Trek (The Original Series).

I use single digits for the season, except when the season count reaches the double digits, then I use double digits for all (so "S01" for the first season).
I do likewise for the episode counts, but I always expect them to be double-digited, so I always use double digits there.

If I do not know the title I will omit that and just use S1E28.


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