RE: Style Manual

Subject: RE: Style Manual
From: KMcLauchlan -at- chrysalis-its -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 28 Mar 2001 11:08:04 -0500

When it comes to an in-house style manual, I see
two options:

1) pre-emptive and,
2) after-the-fact

The first sad fact is that CMS, MSMoS and whatever else
are looked at as big, intimidating, annoyingly-fussy
documents that nobody is really going to study.

The second sad fact is that, except for the most anally
retentive types, most people (including those for whom
English is not a first language) come with the built-in,
nearly-inerradicable assumption that "I write just fine,

Combine those two.

The result is that all references to the standard works
will be corrective, remedial, after-the-fact. That is,
you or some literate manager or some marketing type or
some owner-of-the-corporate-look minion are going to
spy something gawdawful. You will approach the offender
with printout and red pen in hand, and you will refer
to the standard works as justification for your various

With that in mind, when I write an in-house style guide,

1) I point at the adopted standard work(s)
a) CMS?
b) MSoS?
c) some (bleagh!) military standard?
d) recommended dictionaries
e) prescribed spelling/language style (i.e., 'Murrican
or Brit) and when/if each is appropriate.
2) I tell the reader where to find approved templates and
logos, and what are the blood-curdling penalties for
modifications or failure to use.
3) Then I jump into a few pages of stuff-people-usually-get-wrong,
and WHY it's wrong, with examples.

I try to keep it light, even humorous. My text includes stuff
that is peculiar to our corporate look as well as stuff
you'd find in Fowler, Strunk&White, Gordon... CMS...
because my experience is that those items are FCOs
(frequently committed offences :-) and that nobody is going
to look it up because they all know they are wonderful
writers anyway.

Ten pages, they can probably handle, especially if (as
part of their orientation/indoctrination) they have to
sign that they've actually read it. Ahem!

Your Mileage May Vary.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Bill Swallow [mailto:bill_swallow -at- yahoo -dot- com]
> Sent: Tuesday, March 27, 2001 2:01 PM
> Subject: Re: Style Manual
> > How would you design this manual? What elements
> > would you include?
> I would design it with thought, wit, and probably a
> DTP tool of some sort. ;)
> I'd include any and all elements that are not covered
> by the documents you already reference (CMS and
> MSMoS), and anything that differs slightly from these
> references. In other words, conventions, style
> definitions, department procedures, TW
> responsibilities, favorite beanie babies, a pointless
> quote from a forgotten author... oops, got carried
> away! ;)
> Include info about things you want to control the
> look, feel, and function of, and design it so it
> acceptably fits your department's (or company's) needs.


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