RE: Having Your Style Guide and Eating Your Fries Too

Subject: RE: Having Your Style Guide and Eating Your Fries Too
From: "walden miller" <wmiller -at- vidiom -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 5 Apr 2001 15:31:27 -0600

AHHHHHH! is right.

First process exists.
Second, the map is not the territory.

Standards are maps of processes; they are not processes.

Not having a map is only disconcerting if you don't know the territory.

Consequently, style guides are most useful for training new writers (i.e.,
introducing them to the territory). And that's why style guides must be
somewhat dynamic. As the territory changes...

So style manuals are useful, but if you spend too much time on them, they
become work: Meta-manuals.


Someone mentioned we are teaching people how to read manuals (inferred by
the consistency, etc.)

Technical writing is cultural. Because of the technocracy of soviet union,
very few people are used to reading instructions. Most of what we
(US/European--sorry I don't know enough about pacific rim culture)
understand as technical writing design is culturally-biased through years of
education in reading technical literature. A great example is the pointing
hand to point out an important "something." Many cultures are very
disconcerted by a floating disembodied hand. Exploding diagrams are equally

We teach, but only informed readers.

Style manuals are freeing to experienced writers. I can learn a style
manual in a day or two. Once learned, I don't have to think about style. I
just write within the style. And that speeds up my writing.

Process maps are equally freeing if the maps correlate fairly well to the
actual process.
The real issue is that process maps (i.e. standards) often are fictions and
consequently hinder more than help. If you want to change a process, don't
write a new standard, talk to the people who are in the process.

Soapboxes "R" Us


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