RE: punctuation and procedure titles...

Subject: RE: punctuation and procedure titles...
From: "Murrell, Thomas" <TMurrell -at- alldata -dot- net>
Date: Thu, 9 Mar 2000 09:12:14 -0500

> From: Angela Pollak[SMTP:angela -dot- pollak -at- sybase -dot- com]
> Do you punctuate procedural titles with a colon?
> And what is your reasoning?
> Roughly half said it is correct, and the other half said it is incorrect.
> Some based the decision on opinion, some on snippets of grammar rules that
> may or may not be relevant to the field of software documentation. I even
> asked two grammarians and they both came up with opposite answers. Oops.
> I'm no further ahead than when I started looking into the subject :-}
Welcome to the wonderful world of writing. <G>

When I was taking my classes in English Literature, and writing on the side,
I was taught that writing is all about choices: word choices, style choices,
even typography choices. My experience in the so-called real world bears
this observation out. Regardless of the type of writing we do, writing is
as much about making choices and applying those choices to achieve the
desired effect as it is about anything else.

To me, the difference between a writer and someone who can write--Technical
or otherwise--is that writers are aware that there are choices, and they
make the choices that seem most appropriate to them for achieving their
purposes. As readers, we may agree or disagree with writers' choices; as
writers, we may wish there were fewer choices or that everyone would agree
with our choices so that the language would be more consistently (and
possibly to our minds elegantly) used.

But the fact remains that there are few hard and fast rules, far fewer than
many of us would like.

How you punctuate your lists is a choice you get to make as a writer. You
can codify that choice in a style guide. You can align yourself with other
writers and other sources, from the Chicago Manual of Style to the Microsoft
Manual of Style through all manner of choices in between. The purpose of
style guides is to enforce a sort of conformity on writings emanating from
the same source. For this reason, having a house style guide is a useful
thing where there are many writers contributing to the documentation set of
a particular product or publication. However, style guides, grammar books,
even dictionaries are constructs intended to guide and inform not to

The above, by the way, is some of what *I* learned in college when I was
studying the writing craft. I hope the above is a useful contribution to a
couple of threads that have been wafting through the list lately.

Tom Murrell
Pompous Pontificator on Practically Everything <g>

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