RE: Three (basic?) style questions

Subject: RE: Three (basic?) style questions
From: "David Chinell" <dchinell -at- msn -dot- com>
To: "'Yosuke Ichikawa'" <ichikawayosuke -at- obun -dot- co -dot- jp>, "'TECHWR-L'" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 25 Jul 2000 11:04:01 -0400


I'm not referring to any style guides, just giving
my personal opinions. I'm a native English speaker,
and have been a technical writer for over 20 years.

1) Capitalization in cross-references

Most of my guides say to use the same capitalization
as the heading being cross-referenced. But I like
your thinking better, and I'd do the same. We use
sentence casing for our headings, so I'd use
sentence casing in the cross-references, even those
to headings that are set all-caps.

2) Reference to other subheads within the same page

Your use of "above" and "below" is correct. Some
sources suggest using "earlier" and "later" but
there's nothing wrong with your usage. Your critic
is a bone-headed meddler who is clearly out of his
or her narrow range of "expertise".

3) Bulleted list question

This is the point at which my preferences differ
from yours. I prefer to think of a bullet list as a
list, not as a sentence. So I would write:

Do so and so if:

* Condition one
* Condition two

Alternately, to emphasize the logic, I might write:

Do so and so in either of these conditions:

* Condition one
* Condition two

But I use that more often for alternate methods in

About style guides and such... If I were
independently wealthy, I'd say the following:

Style guides keep the writer consistent across one
or more works. They support two kinds of
consistency: internal and external. That is, they
keep spellings and conventions consistent within the
works authored, and they keep those works consistent
with the training and expectations of the readers.

ALL of which is supposed to make the job of the
reader easier by making the material more readable.

So I support your deviations from style guides
because they tend to make your work more readable.
(All this assumes you have been consistent, or are
prepared to fix any inconsistencies.)

It would be nice to appeal to style guides as
authorities to bolster your argument with the
client, but I just can't offer you any help there.

Can you add your decisions to a company style guide,
then refer the client to that guide? I'd do that in
a heartbeat. It's dishonest and fighting dirty, but
I just don't care any more. If you don't have a
style guide now, this is the time to create one.

In the end, most of the decisions you're struggling
with are YOURS to make, not the client's. You're the
author, so you get those kind of perks. It's just
the way the game is played. If your client wants to
make stupid style decisions, tell him or her to hire
a typist, not a writer.

Since I'm NOT financially independent, I'd probably
say something like: Sure Mr. Derriere, I can change
those to all caps. It will cost you an extra
$3,000,000.00, since it's a deviation from the style
guide (as per our contract). But we can have those
changes done for you by [insert project deadline
plus two weeks].


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