Getting input into the style guide

Subject: Getting input into the style guide
From: "Jane Carnall" <jane -dot- carnall -at- digitalbridges -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 24 May 2001 10:20:49 +0100

This is *not* an opportunity for us all to kick into the serif/sans-serif
topic again.

Walking up the hill to work, I happened to fall into the QA for this
company, who inquired after the documentation and said she'd be interested
in seeing it. I printed her out a copy of the main manual. For lack of other
input when I started, one of the things I did was set up a basic Word
template with a minimal number of styles, etc, so that I could format all
the documentation into the same format. One of the first things she said
when she looked at it was: "Oh, of course you didn't know, because the style
guide wasn't available, but we've agreed that all documentation produced by
us has to be in Arial."

(I'd used Times New Roman for the body text, and Arial for the headers. Not
the most inspired of choices, but I wasn't after being inspired: just
getting a standard style that could then be changed as required.)

I queried her about this, and she said that "It had been agreed to" that all
documentation "Contracts, everything" would be in Arial, and that if I
wanted to I could take it up with the marketing manager. I assured her that
I was not wedded to anything in my current template, and I'm not.

But... I want to get some input into this style guide, at least as far as it
concerns user manuals. I don't want to end up controlled by a style guide
that was developed in consultation before this company hired a technical
writer. I've taken a look through the archives (my, we do like to discuss
serif/san-serif fonts a lot, don't we?) and have collected some book titles
for researching this. Tactically, though, what I thought of doing was a
brief (like 1 side of A4) paper on "Good design for manuals" or "Elements of
typographic design" to be circulated to my manager and the QA and the
marketing manager and anyone else useful, on the lines of "These are my
ideas on what our manuals ought to look like, and this is why." That way I'm
not explicitly challenging the marketing style guide - I'm just saying what
I think will be good for *my* area of expertise.

But... I also don't want to get into an infight. I just have a strong
feeling that any style guide that simply specifies "Arial" as a font choice
is not one that paid much attention to what user guides need to look like;
and if all the documentation I produce is to be formatted in accordance with
the company style guide, I want some input into what the company style guide

I would appreciate insights and advice on how best to handle this...

Jane Carnall
"Go not to the technical writers for counsel, for they will tell you to


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