RE: Style Guide Help

Subject: RE: Style Guide Help
From: "walden miller" <wmiller -at- vidiom -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 28 Jun 2000 12:32:58 -0600

> --- chasity mcwilliams <chas -at- fcs -dot- uga -dot- edu> wrote:
> > I have been asked to create a style guide for our department. It will
be used for creating help
> > guides/manuals and handouts. I have never done anything like this and
was wondering if anyone out there
> > could give me a good starting point.
I have written four or five style guides for different companies. I have
reviewed many others in making mine.
There are a couple very good published style guides available from
bookstores. I recommend Sun's style guide as a good place to start: "Read
Me First" It includes the entire manual on a CD with Frame Templates.

When writing the style guide, remember to write for entry level writers as
well as experienced writers (even if your department only has senior
writers); style manuals will outlast individual writers.

My style manuals dwell on three subjects:

1. documentation philosophy (how manual sets/manuals/chapters are
constructed for the individual company and specific audiences of the

2. templates (book/chapter/paragraph/font)

3. nuts and bolts (diction, spelling of terms-of-art, processes for
delivery/release, etc.)

I also chose the following references for all issues not covered in the
style manual (its good to have a backup):

1. Chicago Manual of Style
2. Elements of Style
3. A good English Usage book (I have Merriam Websters on my desk).

I also encourage updates to the style manual when problems arise. The style
manual should be considered a living book. I also remind writers that
changes in style will "cost" the company if they are systemic design changes
(i.e., every manual must be updated to the new style). There is much pain
in changing designs.

I should also note, that a documentation style manual is not a corporate
style manual. Corporate style manuals typically discuss all legal uses of
logos, which colors can be used, which fonts are officially blessed for all
external promotional/sales/marketing material, etc. This type of
information is much more transitory as logos, colors, and marketing design
change regularly with the winds of fashion.

Good luck in creating a style manual. I have found it is very educational.

Walden Miller
Vidiom Systems
Boulder, Colorado

ps. don't forget to conform to your style as you write the style manual;
this is a good trick.

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